PREVIEW: May 2021

Another month has come and gone, but the upcoming month I am looking forward to as cinemas can legally reopen in the UK from May 17th! I do not care what films are in Odeon when they reopen, I just cannot wait to sit in front of a giant screen with a tub of salted popcorn and a large coke! On a downside, it will take me longer to see films like Judas and the Black Messiah and Godzilla vs. Kong than expected, due to HBO Max now not coming to the UK until 2025, due to various deals Sky have going on…I mean COME ON! At present, the only way to watch those films is to pay £16 for a weekend rental on Prime…no thanks, I will wait for the DVD releases (or a price drop)!

Still…CINEMAS REOPENING!!! That gives me something to look forward to for May, so I am naturally pumped! Anyway, as for April, I did not get as much content posted as originally hoped due to having other stuff going on, but I did get some done. As for what my blog content will look like in May…I am unsure as of right now, but there will be regular posts, so fear not!

Thank you as always for visiting this blog and for the month ahead I wish you Happy Reading, but most of all that you and your loved ones stay healthy and safe during the ongoing uncertainties, re. the pandemic!

FILM: The War with Grandpa (2020, Tim Hill)

TRIVIA: The War with Grandpa was filmed in 2017 and due to be distributed by The Weinstein Company…hence it was not released in February 2018 like it was originally slated to be.

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Family comedy film The War with Grandpa is adapted from Robert Kimmel Smith’s book and co-distributed by 101 Studios and Brookdale Studios. When widower Ed (Robert De Niro) moves in with his family, he is given his grandson Peter’s (Oakes Fegley) bedroom. Peter is understandably unhappy that he has to move into the attic, and declares a war with his Grandpa in the hopes of getting his bedroom back. The two engage in a constantly escalating prank war, but at what point will things truly go too far?


  • A ridiculous premise which is unengaging and prevents either of the two main characters from being that likeable, but there are so many holes that can easily be picked in the premise, such as why the parents never intervene sooner despite things really getting out of hand, and a war veteran who wants to emphasise how bad war is to his angry grandson not just clamping down on it all from the off.
  • Very uncertain direction from Tim Hill, as he tries to balance slapstick comedy with familial warmth and moments of more serious drama, but he neither manages to achieve this balance nor truly commit to any of these aspects, and the final result is something which feels rather half-hearted indeed.
  • The verbal gags are very half-hearted and generally not that amusing at all due to overreliance on poor quality running jokes that were never funny in the first place, and ultimately far too much focus on physical comedy over verbal.
  • Look, no matter how much energy it is played with, the physical comedy just is not funny as it is cheap slapstick and it is not amusing to see obviously frail and elderly people suffering physical injury, and it is especially uncomfortable to see multiple elderly people tormenting schoolkids to the point of bullying. And do not get me started on that very bad taste funeral scene!


  • No matter how bad the material they have to work with is, the cast do actually give perfectly fine performances and throw themselves into their roles with energy and enthusiasm, and the few enjoyable moments rightly come from Oakes Fegley, Robert De Niro and Poppy Gagnon (as Peter’s little sister).


FILM: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957, Edward D. Wood Jr.)

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Independent science-fiction film Plan 9 from Outer Space was distributed by Valiant Pictures. A group of extra-terrestrials are seeking to stop humanity from creating a doomsday weapon which could destroy the universe. They implement “Plan 9” – a scheme to resurrect the Earth’s dead – in the hopes that doing so will force humanity to listen to them. If Plan 9 does not work, then their intention will be to let mankind be wiped out by hordes of the undead.


  • It is no secret how genuinely terrible this film is – a fact that is undeniable. The narrative of this awkwardly directed film is at best simplistic and unfocused, with no real characterisation, very simplistic dialogue, which often goes into the realms of clunky and implausible, and far too many silly ideas for its own good. Furthermore, the film makes a really ham-fisted job of recurring themes in 1950s’ science-fiction, such as government conspiracy and extra-terrestrial communication. The cast is uniformly awful, with some truly wooden performances. As for the the sets, props and practical effects, they are incredibly cheap, flimsy and of altogether poor quality, even for a low budget 1950s’ science-fiction film, while the make-up effects are nothing short of ridiculous.


  • Analysis of this film years after its release was key in the coining of the term “so bad it is good”, and it is easy to see why as one cannot help but laugh at how bad it all is when watching this film. Furthermore, one cannot help but respect the fact that Edward D. Wood Jr. (or Ed Wood, as he is more commonly referred to) believed in this film and was passionate about his vision, no matter how bad it may have been.


VIDEO GAME: Lego Avengers (2016, Traveller’s Tales)

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Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment for Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U, 3DS, PS Vita, OSX and Windows, Lego Avengers is the Lego video game adaptation of Avengers Assemble and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The player plays through the events of those films as the various Avengers, while flashbacks that the characters have lead to playing through some of the events of Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.


  • The animation of the gameplay boasts good graphics and a rather rich and bright colour palette in most levels, as well as an effectively darker and grittier one in certain darker levels, and like with other Lego games the levels have a good amount of background detail and a lovely sense of texture to them.
  • A number of the levels are for the most part good as they have puzzles which are clever, and at times tricky and quirky, while the battles vary between fun and dark, all utilising the playable characters’ powers well, and reflect the tone of the source materials which they adapt.
  • A number of collectable, unlockable characters have excellent functions and powers which make it possible to gain access to new things and complete additional puzzles (which make nice nods to the franchise) in Free Play replays.


  • By only going through the events of two full films out of twelve and the odd part of four others, the narrative is rather disjointed, but furthermore it also fails to appease people like me – a fan of both Marvel and the Lego video games – who would rather have a separate game for each Phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that covers every single film.
  • Some of the levels are quite repetitive and in some of them there are large chunks which lack fun or intensity in their fights, or intrigue and creativity in their puzzles. This is part of the larger general problem of how these games are rather inconsistent in tone and pace alike.
  • The animation in the cutscenes is noticeably more basic and far less detailed than in the gameplay, and the jokes often miss the mark.


VIDEO GAME: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (2009, Naughty Dog)

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Action-adventure game Uncharted 2: Among Thieves was published for PS3 by Sony. Two years after the events of the first game, Nathan Drake (Nolan North) partners with Elena Fisher (Emily Rose) and Chloe Frazer (Claudia Black) in a search for the Cintamani Stone and the city of Shambhala. However, in their quest they must also contend with a mercenary group led by war criminal Zoran Lazarević (Graham McTavish), who knows about the mission after Drake’s former associate Harry Flynn (Steve Valentine) betrayed him, and who hopes to use the Stone for his own gain.


  • A fantastic balance between adventure and platform gaming, particularly when completing the puzzles; while the action when facing enemies is fast-paced and intense, often involving mini-puzzles/mysteries which one must take on. Furthermore, some of the action levels subvert gamer expectations by giving us enemies which cannot be killed (though they can be slowed down by bullets) but must be evaded instead.
  • The puzzles are very clever and intricate challenges which force the player to take heed of the smaller details in Drake’s surrounding, the smallest of which often make the difference between completion and going round in circles.
  • The non-linear narrative proves rather interesting as it gives a real sense of mystery to the first half to two-thirds of the gameplay, and in its own ways presents another puzzle which we the gamer piece together as we play through the narrative.
  • Breathtakingly stunning graphics and conceptually fantastic designs throughout the game. In the exteriors it is particularly found in the reflective quality of the water, the brightly-lit surroundings and the scale of the mountains and jungles; while the designs of the interior locations are as rich in nuance, detail and texture in the small caverns as they are the enormous temples.
  • When controlling Drake as he climbs, the in-game camera often depicts this in a long shot or a wide, giving the campaign a real cinematic quality which is jaw-dropping to look at, as is the scale and cinematic quality of the cutscenes.
  • The main characters have a great dynamic which evolves over the course of the game, and is made all the more engaging by the excellent voice performances from Nolan North, Emily Rose and Claudia Black. Furthermore, with more motion-capture technology having been used, their movements, gestures and expressions in the cutscenes in particular have a much more fluid and naturalistic quality than those of the first game.


  • As with the first game, Drake swims and runs very slowly, the latter of which proves rather frustrating and a slight hamper in a couple of levels.

VERDICT: 10/10

FILM: The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020, Aaron Sorkin)


Historical legal drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 is distributed by Netflix. The film tells of how the Chicago Seven – a group of anti-Vietnam War protestors – were tried with conspiracy to incite riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. They are tried for this alongside Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), and it soon becomes apparent that they are facing an uphill battle to be found “Not Guilty”, as Judge Hoffman (Frank Langella) does everything that he can to ensure that they do not receive a fair trial, his doing so being further encouraged by the federal prosecutor (J.C. MacKenzie).


  • Aaron Sorkin once again proves himself to be a master of the legal drama by penning the intense courtroom scenes in which he not only crafts vast amounts of tension by showing the ups and downs of the trial, namely how the judge and prosecutor try to sabotage the defence and leave us the viewers wondering how on Earth the Chicago Seven could be found “Not Guilty” with the odds so stacked against them. Furthermore, he creates a great sense of ambiguity as to whether they are all guilty or not, the actual answer being one that we piece together with the help of flashbacks.
  • A well-researched narrative, Aaron Sorkin does not downplay the racial and political unrest of the 1960s (including some genuinely harrowing moments), which makes for simultaneously compelling and uncomfortable viewing, even more so as the parallels between the 1960s and the present are very clear.
  • Aaron Sorkin also utilises humour very well in the trial, namely through Abbie Hoffman (Sacha Baron Cohen), the much needed and wholly plausible comic relief, and here we also see a deft hand as a director at work, as he incorporates the humour effortlessly and naturalistically. Furthermore, he utilises the drama and humour alike to flesh out the real-life figures, their personalities and their ideologies – like with all things Sorkin making it a character-driven narrative.
  • A unanimously strong cast, with Frank Langella making the truly detestable judge absolutely compelling to watch, while Yahya Abdul-Mateen II brings raw grit and emotion to Bobby Seale. The cast members playing the Chicago Seven all give solid turns, but the true scene-stealer is Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, with his outstanding comic timing and delivery – truth be told, this is his most hilarious performance to date.
  • Excellent production and costume design gives the film’s 1960s setting a wonderful sense of period authenticity and makes it a genuinely handsome film to look at, which is aided very nicely by Phedon Papamichael’s cinematography which nicely frames the trial and draws real focus to the people through excellent close-ups.


  • The opening is a tad rushed, while the film ends quite abruptly after the often episodic narrative by summarising key facts regarding the outcome and aftermath of the trial in a postscript rather than by depicting them on screen – a genuine disappointment as the final scene is genuinely powerful.


FILM: One Night in Miami… (2020, Regina King)

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Drama film One Night in Miami… is adapted from Kemp Powers’s play of the same title and, following its premiere at the 2020 Venice Film Festival, is distributed by Amazon Prime. Inspired by true events from 1964, we see Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.) meet in a Miami motel room to celebrate Ali becoming the Heavyweight Champion of the World. However, the celebrations are short-lived, as the four men engage in an often-heated discussion about the state of race relations in the United States, their place within such a racially-divided and bigoted nation, and what they are considering in regard to their futures.


  • Director Regina King gives the film a snappy tempo which, when coupled with the excellent dialogue, makes for a consistently engaging film, and she also avoids the trap which many filmmakers fall into when directing an adaptation of a play, by ensuring that (while the tempo is snappy) the pacing is naturalistic and there are the types of pause which you have in real-life and in film, but tend not to see on stage. Furthermore, she keeps the film wholly character-focused and dialogue-driven, utilising the primary setting of a motel room excellently to do so.
  • Kemp Powers adapted his own play for the screen here and does an excellent job by keeping the dialogue fresh and sharp, giving it a wholly plausible quality that plays do at times lack and, like Regina King with her direction, ensures that the pauses are in the right place and the tempo is naturalistic. Furthermore, his discussion about race relations in the 1960s is honest and frank, and it is shocking how many visible similarities they bear with the 21st Century. Furthermore, with none of these significant figures is there a sense of hero-worship, rather a very human portrayal of men with differing opinions and who, despite having admirable qualities, were all flawed individuals.
  • Regina King and Kemp Powers avoid the trappings which often happen with play-adaptations by utilising some of the freedoms which the medium of film allows that theatre does not, such as montage, and those which are harder to execute on stage, such as flashbacks and cutting to-and-from different locations within a few minutes.
  • No matter how good the direction and screenwriting is, the film would struggle if the four central performances were poor. Fortunately Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. all give excellent turns, realising the characters very well indeed, delivering their lines with great emotion and having a fantastic chemistry with each other.
  • Excellent production design and costume design gives a real sense of period authenticity to the 1960s setting, which is further aided by the use of archive footage of news programmes from the era. The period details are also framed well by cinematographer Tami Reiker, who furthermore uses close-ups and mid-shots to aid in keeping the focus on the characters and their thoughts and emotions.


  • The prologue and the epilogue both feel quite rushed. They establish what these real-life figures were doing prior to that meeting and what they did afterwards respectively, and (with the exception of Ali in the prologue) these establishments and summarisations are very rushed and feel far more like a quick tick-list than the substantial prologue and epilogue that they should be.


FILM: Promising Young Woman (2020, Emerald Fennell)

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Black comedy/thriller Promising Young Woman is distributed by Focus Features, following its premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) – a 30-year-old medical school dropout – spends her nights feigning drunkenness in clubs, allowing men to take her to their homes, before revealing her sobriety when they try to take advantage of her. Her reason for doing so is that her best friend Nina was raped whilst drunk years earlier, but no action was taken or investigation begun. Now, Cassie learns that Nina’s rapist Al (Chris Lowell) is back in town and preparing to get married, and – having never been able to move on – Cassie decides that it is time to avenge Nina and make Al face some kind of comeuppance for what he did to her.


  • Emerald Fennell’s direction is very good as her passion for her art and belief in the narrative’s importance is consistently clear, she maintains a clear focus on character throughout, knows exactly when to up the pace and when to slow it down, and generally finds a good balance between comedy and drama.
  • Emerald Fennell’s screenplay takes timely, sensitive issues of rape, mental health and predatory behaviour and refuses to downplay how terrible some social norms, assumptions and reactions which happen in relation to them truly are. There are some dark gags that are quite fitting for the subject-matter that hold up a mirror to society, and it is far from formulaic writing, making it all the more engaging.
  • An outstanding performance from Carey Mulligan that is rich in raw emotion that gives it real gravitas and reflects how genuinely well she realises Cassie’s character. She is ably supported by a solid ensemble, with particularly strong work from Bo Burnham, Alison Brie and Chris Lowell, while Molly Shannon and Alfred Molina shine in their brief scenes.
  • Cinematographer Benjamin Kračun frames everything wonderfully, capturing the rich colour palette beautifully and using predominantly mid to close-ups to aid the narrative in remaining character-focused, while Frédéric Thoraval’s slick editing aids in making the pacing dynamic and engaging.


  • Not quite all of the gags land – notably a couple miss the mark due to being unnecessarily farcical and not appropriate for where they occur in the narrative, and a few other gags (which are not farcical) also come at the wrong moments.
  • At times the narrative does feel quite disjointed and even a tad rushed, particularly in the final Act which could have benefited from being an extra 10 minutes or so longer to flesh certain things out and make everything flow together more cohesively, which even Emerald Fennell’s breaking away from the revenge film formula cannot distract from.


LITERATURE: The Time Machine (H.G. Wells, 1895)

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British science-fiction novella The Time Machine was originally published by William Heinemann. A group of scientists gather together for a dinner party in Richmond, Surrey. There the host reveals that he has built a time machine and successfully travelled to the future. He recounts to the guests his experiences of the year 802701, where humanity has devolved rather than evolved. By then humanity has divided into two distinct forms – the Eloi (childish creatures who live a carefree existence overground) and the Morlocks (underground dwellers who prey on the Eloi to whom they had once been subservient).


  • For H.G. Wells to write this novel in the mid-1890s was very timely as the 19th Century was an era in which mankind had become increasingly fascinated with science and technology, and there was some tremendous breakthroughs in these areas.
  • An altogether engaging read into which H.G. Wells fills the Time Traveller’s recounting of his adventures and of the future which he experienced with very good detail and we see a wonderful imagination and creative flare come through in the writing.
  • H.G. Wells could so easily have written future humanity to be incredibly advanced, given how Darwinian theories of evolution had been published earlier that century and many people bought into them, so to create a vision of a future in which humanity has devolved was a stroke of genius which immediately subverts the expectations of the readers.
  • Written in an era in which Britain had a blatant class divide, in creating the Eloi and the Morlocks, H.G. Wells pens a very clever allegory for the British class system and really a fable of class division in general, which emphasises that no matter how much more privileged one class is than the other, no social class is perfect and for people of one to have a superiority complex is foolish.


  • Given what a master H.G. Wells proved to be at crafting horror with his later novel(la)s, it is a real shame that this novella is telling rather than showing. We do not see the future, we just hear the Time Traveller summarise his adventure, and it simply feels like Wells was playing it safe.
  • For the aforementioned reason, the novella lacks suspense as we know that, no matter how perilous the Time Traveller’s adventure becomes, he makes it back safely.
  • The first-person narrator is a guest who is listening to what the Time Traveller says, but really the first-person narrator should have been the Time Traveller himself, given that it is his adventures and experiences that are recounted in the narrative.


LITERATURE: The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien, 1937)

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British fantasy novel The Hobbit was originally published by George Allen & Unwin, and was J.R.R. Tolkien’s first ever book set in his now iconic Middle-Earth. Hobbit Bilbo Baggins lives a comfortable and peaceful life in The Shire, that is until he is visited by the wizard Gandalf and a company of thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield – the rightful King of the dwarfish kingdom under the Lonely Mountain. Bilbo is asked to join them on their quest to reclaim the mountain’s treasure – which is guarded by the dragon Smaug, who took the kingdom from the dwarves – in exchange for a share of it. The hobbit joins the company and sets off on an epic quest across Middle-Earth, leaving his peaceful rural surroundings and entering all manner of more sinister territories and facing a plethora of dangers.


  • J.R.R. Tolkien here penned a remarkably fun and exciting adventure which makes for wonderful reading, and through this he crafts a fascinating and intricately detailed fantasy world in the form of Middle-Earth, in which he establishes numerous locations with all manner of different qualities, multiple unique races, some aspects of the history and legends of the locations, and various aspects of political relations between races and locations.
  • It is a testament to J.R.R. Tolkien’s skills as a storyteller that the narrative is episodic yet never feels even the slightest bit jarring or disjointed, as those by so many other authors over the years have, instead flowing absolutely magnificently and making for consistently engaging reading.
  • J.R.R. Tolkien further proves to be a wordsmith here due to the wonderful songs he pens, but also the fantastic dialogue, most notably that in the gripping game of riddles Bilbo engages in with Gollum and his conversations with Smaug.
  • A key reason for our investment into the narrative is the fact that it is wholly character-driven, the wonderful adventure serving as a backdrop and method for developing Bilbo, whose character arc is truly magnificent as, by the one-third point, it is apparent that he will never be the same as he was when he first met the dwarves.
  • As well as Bilbo, J.R.R. Tolkien establishes well both Gandalf and the dwarves – especially Thorin – so that we the reader invest in them and feel concern for them when they face all manner of perils, and the latter parts of the novel have more in the way of an emotional gut-punch.
  • While there is a lot of intensity in the more perilous moments of the adventure and the warfare in the latter part of the novel, there is also some good and entertaining comic relief in the form of Bombur.


  • While all of the dwarves’ familial relationships with each other and (for want of a better term) roles are established, some of them get noticeably less focus and dialogue than others.
  • There are a few points where J.R.R. Tolkien explicitly states what is going to happen later on in the novel, and they are quite frankly not needed at all.

VERDICT: 10/10