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Donald McKinney
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Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018), the sequel to Wreck-It Ralph (2012), again directed by Rich Moore and Phil Johnston (Zootropolis (2016)), and after confining the first film to old arcade games, the sequel goes one further as the title suggests. The result is a film that puts the similarly themed The Emoji Movie (2016) to shame, as it has more heart and isn't cynical. At Litwak's Family Fun Center and Arcade, video game characters Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) have become close friends, even though Vanellope wants more. After Ralph tries to make a new track on Vanellope's game Sugar Rush, but it ends up breaking the game. As a result, the game is unplugged and all the characters are now homeless. To make it up to Vanellope, Ralph suggests trying to find a new part that'll fix the game, which means going on the internet. They go on the internet, and Ralph ends up bidding too much for said part on eBay, and now has 24 hours to find the money for the part. Meanwhile, Vanellope has become distracted by Slaughter Race, going up against racer Shank (Gal Gadot). It's a very inventive film and an example of a sequel being better than the original, which manages to cleverly satirise just about all of the internet and all of pop culture without seeming too smug and in your face, showing original depictions of all aspects of the internet. It manages to have fun, and it has heart as well, and it has some brilliant set pieces as well. 4/5

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Creed II (2018), 3 years after Creed (2015) proved to be a compelling and enjoyable spin-off from the Rocky films, a sequel was inevitable. Here directed by Steven Caple Jr. (The Land (2016)), this brings back Rocky's deadliest opponent from Rocky IV (1985), and while it is very predictable, that doesn't stop it from being as compelling and enjoyable as the first Creed. After the events of the first film, Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) has enjoyed some big victories, and has risen to the top of boxing, and has become the World Heavyweight Champion, and he's also proposed to his girlfriend Bianca (Tessa Thompson). Meanwhile, in Kiev, former Soviet boxer Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) has been training his son Viktor (Florian Munteanu) and they now have Adonis in their sights. Adonis wants to fight Viktor, but his trainer Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) refuses to train him, so Adonis goes to fight Viktor regardless. Adonis suffers massives injuries, but Viktor is disqualified for hitting Adonis when he is down. Emotionally and physically broken, Rocky comes back to help Adonis rediscover himself. It's the sort of thing you'd expect from boxing films like this, and it follows the plot of Rocky IV all over again, without copying it completely, but it's message is that there's some wounds that will never heal, not just physically but emotionally. But, the boxing sequences are well executed, and it's good to see Stallone and Lundgren back together again. 4/5

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Mortal Engines (2018), written and produced by Peter Jackson, and adapted from the 2001 novel by Philip Reeve. Originally, Jackson has wanted to direct this, but after opting to do They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) instead, he handed the reigns to Christian Rivers, who has worked with Jackson since Braindead (1992). It's an insanely bonkers film, which isn't as bad as critics say. Somewhere in the future, a nuclear war wiped out most of humanity, but all the major cities and towns were put on wheels, and a new age was born. Where cities hunt down other smaller vehicle towns for resources. From one town comes the masked Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) who is looking to hunt down and kill Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), London's Head of Historians. Valentine is prevented from assassination by young historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), but he ends up out in the wilderness with Hester, after he learns a dark truth about Valentine. Before long, Hester and Tom end up with outlaw resistance leader Anna Fang (Jihae), who is looking to bring down the moving cities and bring about order and peace. It's nearly impossible to describe the sheer ambition of this film, even the concept is absolutely bonkers, it's the sort of film Terry Gilliam would have made if he'd sold out to Hollywood, but there's also a touch of Hayao Miyazaki about the whole concept, with the whole steampunk stylings. It's a shame it's been a massive flop, as it's definitely not as bad as it's reputation suggests. 4/5

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Aquaman (2018), after years in development and introducing the character in Justice League (2017), Aquaman finally gets his own film courtesy of James Wan (Saw (2004) and Insidious (2010)), and it's a very enjoyable film, and it's head and shoulders over Justice League. True, there are shortcomings, but there's some good set pieces and a good cast too. Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) has a strange background, his father Thomas (Temuera Morrison) is human, while his mother Atlanna (Nicole Kidman) was Queen of Atlantis, she fled as she was hunted by Atlantis' king. Arthur was trained by Nuidis Vulko (Willem Dafoe), who knew Atlanna. When Orm (Patrick Wilson), Arthur's half-brother, wants to wage war on the humans on the surface. Mera (Amber Heard) goes to Arthur, asking for his help, believing only he can put a stop to Orm's plan. Nuidis tells Arthur to find the Trident of Atlan, which Arthur will be able to put a stop to Orm's plans and become the rightful king of Atlantis, which Arthur is quite reluctant about, but he goes off on an adventure that takes him from the Sahara to Sicily. It's a very daft film, and it takes itself a lot less seriously than the recent Batman and Superman films have, and that's down to Momoa, who injects Arthur Curry with a cheeky, roguish charm, which benefits the film. It's nowhere near as good as Wonder Woman (2017), but it shows there's a lot more to the DC Universe than Batman and Superman. 4/5

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Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018), after the live-action Spider-Man being rebooted 3 times, plans for an animated Spider-Man film were implemented by producers/writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, (21 Jump Street (2012) and The Lego Movie (2014)), the result is a film which turns the whole myth of Spider-Man upside down and inside out. In New York, teenager Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) looks up to Spider-Man who is a saviour in the city. Even though he's struggling to fit in at school, he finds himself uncovering an evil plan by Wilson Fisk (Liev Schreiber), which involves a particle accelerator. Miles is bitten by an experimental, radioactive spider, and he ends up with Spider-Man (Chris Pine) battling Fisk. However, Spider-Man is killed and Miles' DNA gotinto the paricle accelerator, which ends up bringing Spider-Men from alternate universes into Miles' universe. Including the sullen, overweight Peter B. Parker (Jake Johnson), cartoon pig Peter Porker (John Mulaney), anime girl Peni Parker (Kimiko Glenn) and 30's detective Spider-Man Noir (Nicolas Cage), all work together to bring down Fisk. It's a very ambitious, meta film with so much bonkers detail. It shouldn't work, but it does, and it's animation style is very cool and stylish, nothing like other animated films out there, and it's held together by caring for it's characters and having a fun sense of humour about the proceedings. It's a proper superhero film with proper thrills and some great imagination on display. 4.5/5

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Mary Poppins Returns (2018), 54 years after the first Mary Poppins (1964), and Disney tried for years to do a sequel, but it was always shot down by P.L. Travers when she was alive. Now, under the direction of Rob Marshall (Chicago (2002) and Into the Woods (2014)), comes a sequel that captures the spirit of the original by giving it a distinctly old school feel. It is 1935, and Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) is a recently bereaved father, who is struggling to keep his family together and the bank are threatening to repossess the Banks home, his sister Jane (Emily Mortimer) helps out looking after the children Annabel (Pixie Davies), John (Nathanael Saleh) and Georgie (Joel Dawson). Suddenly, out of the sky, on a kite comes Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), who comes back to help the Banks family, as well as look after the younger generation. With help from lamplighter Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), they find out that evil bank manager William "Weatherall" Wilkins (Colin Firth) wants the Banks' to default on their loan and lose the house so he can meet targets, but Poppins and the children have plans. It's a very enjoyable film, the musical numbers and choreography is exquisite, and it's a very uplifting film, (quite literally at the end), it's very imaginative, and has some great sequences. It doesn't copy the first film completely, but it pays affectionate homage to it. There's a great cast in this one, and it's one that will leave you with a big, happy smile on your face. Smile 4/5

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Carry On Up The Jungle (1970), for the 19th Carry On film, producer Peter Rogers, director Gerald Thomas and writer Talbot Rothwell took on the Tarzan films and other adventure films. The result is a very funny film, using plenty of double-entendres and knob gags, which are apt for this setting, even it it was all done on soundstages and a few dodgy moments, it doesn't spoil the enjoyment. This one, set around the turn of the century, follows an expedition into darkest Africa, it has ornithologist Professor Inigo Tinkle (Frankie Howerd) looking for the legendary Oozlum bird, they're aided by explorer Bill Boosey (Sid James) and African guide Upsidaisi (a blacked up Bernard Bresslaw), also with them are Lady Evelyn Bagley (Joan Sims), who years earlier lost her husband and baby son, and has returned to the area to look for them. They find Lady Bagley's son, now a Jungle Boy (Terry Scott), and they stumble upon the Lost World of Aphrodisia, a land populated by beautiful ladies. This is another funny addition to the Carry On series, with good humour and smutty dialogue. Frankie is at his camp best, it's a pity he only did two Carry On films, he suited their humour. It's an enjoyable way to pass an hour and a half, and humour like this is needed again today!! Very Happy 4/5

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The Greatest Showman (2017), a passion project for Hugh Jackman, one he's been attached to since 2009, and a chance to show off his theatrical talents for singing and dancing. First time director Michael Gracey exudes confidence in telling this beautiful looking and well choreographed musical biopic. It might gloss over parts of it's subjects life, but it's still well made. Phineas Taylor Barnum (Jackman) started life as a tailor, then he became a clerk at a shipping company. He married his childhood sweetheart Charity (Michelle Williams) and they had two daughters. After the shipping company goes bankrupt, Barnum tricks a bank into taking a large loan using his former employer's lost ships as collateral, which he then uses to open Barnum's American Museum in downtown Manhattan. Initially, they only display wax models, but hoping to increase visitors to the museum, Barnum decides to branch out and use "freaks" to serve as performers. While this wins him large audiences, it isn't very well received. But, Barnum perseveres, he gets help from Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), and Barnum then meets Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) who he brings to America. It's a very entertaining musical, with some brilliant musical numbers and some well choreographed scenes as well, and Jackman relishes the role with zest. It doesn't dig deep into Barnum's life, this is a musical in the tradition of old film musicals. 3.5/5

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Death on the Nile (1978), based on Agatha Christie's 1937 of the same name, and directed by John Guillermin (El Condor (1970) and The Towering Inferno (1974)), this followed on from the success of Murder on the Orient Express (1974), but when Albert Finney refused to return, the makers found a perfect replacement who made the part his own for a few more films. In Egypt in 1937, the great Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) is taking a holiday on the Nile paddle steamer, the S.S. Karnak. The other passengers include Colonel Race (David Niven), socialite Marie Van Schuyler (Bette Davis), her nurse Miss Bowers (Maggie Smith), novelist Salome Otterbourne (Angela Lansbury) as well as American heiress Linnet Ridgeway Doyle (Lois Chiles), her husband Simon (Simon MacCorkindale), as well as their friend Jacqueline de Bellefort (Mia Farrow). But, no sooner than they're a day into the cruise on the Nile, murder strikes, and everyone is a suspect as they all had a motive, but with evidence disappearing and reappearing, Poirot has his work cut out for him, and then the body count rises. This is a very lavish adaptation, with a brilliant all star cast all on top form, Ustinov makes the part of Poirot his own, and it's almost like it was a part he was born to play, giving Poirot a warm and compassionate quality, which he did for another couple of films, it's benefitted by a great script by Anthony Schaffer (The Wicker Man (1973)), and Jack Cardiff's beautiful cinematography. 4/5

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Evil Under The Sun (1982), after the success of Death on the Nile (1978), EMI soon greenlit another Poirot film, this time based on Agatha Christie's 1941 book of the same name. Directing duties this time fell to Guy Hamilton (Goldfinger (1964) and Diamonds are Forever (1971)), it's a very dutiful adaptation, and it benefits from it's great ensemble cast. Hercule Poirot (Peter Ustinov) goes to a Adriatic island resort owned by Daphne Castle (Maggie Smith) to meet industrialist Sir Horace Blatt (Colin Blakely). A diamond belonging to Blatt was found on the body of a woman on the Yorkshire Moors, which Blatt had given to a former fiancé Arlena Stuart Marshall (Diana Rigg), who returned a fake to Blatt. On the island are Patrick Redfern (Nicholas Clay) and his meek wife Christine (Jane Birkin), New York theatre producers Odell and Myra Gardener (James Mason and Sylvia Miles), theatre critic Rex Brewster (Roddy McDowall). Oh, and Arlena turns up, much to Blatt's dismay. But, before longer, one of the guests turns up dead, and it's up to Poirot to find out who was responsible. It's well filmed, although it was relocated from the book's setting of the Devon coast to the Adriatic sea because it was more exotic and director Hamilton was a tax exile. But, it's still a good old-fashioned murder mystery tinged with some old Cole Porter tunes which help add to the 30's atmosphere. Ustinov is a joy as always as Poirot, as is the rest of the ensemble cast. 4/5

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The Favourite (2018), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, (Dogtooth (2009), The Lobster (2015) and The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)), this is a very, VERY unconventional period drama, in fact it's more of a black comedy. Lanthimos and his crew went into it with no knowledge of the period or the subject at all, but it works, thanks to a brilliant trio front and centre. Set in 1708, England is at war with France, Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is on the throne, and in very poor health, both physically and mentally. She has absolutely no interest in politics, and she spends most of her time tending to her 17 rabbits and racing ducks. Her confidante and advisor is Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), who is technically ruling the country through Anne. However, all that changes when Sarah's cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) arrives seeking employment, and it's not long before Abigail soon wins Anne's favour and admiration. However, Sarah soon finds out about this, and attempts to have Abigail sent away, but with no luck, and things take a dark turn when Abigail drugs Sarah. The script dates back to 1998, only for it to be revived much later thanks to a chance connection and director Lanthimos taking an instant liking to it. But, despite being historically inaccurate and being very over the top with it's execution, it's still very enjoyable and you can see why it's become this year's Oscar darling. Ken Russell would have been proud of this one. 4/5

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Stan and Ollie (2018), directed by Jon S. Baird (Filth (2013) and written by Jeff Pope (Philomena (2013)), this is a different kind of biopic, focusing on the later years of the lives of Laurel and Hardy, and a tour they took of the UK in 1953. It's a very affectionate biopic which pays a warm tribute to these Hollywood greats, and it's buoyed by two very consummate leads. In 1953, Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C. Reilly) go to the UK on a tour of music halls, starting in Newcastle. They were lured over by impresario Bernard Delfont (Rufus Jones), who hasn't done a good job with publicity, and is more interested in promoting up-and-comer Norman Wisdom. Stan and Ollie are only doing the tour while the money comes through to make their next film, which Stan finds out isn't going to happen, but he keeps this secret from Ollie. However, once Delfont puts some money into publicity, things pick up. However, old grudges about Ollie not signing a deal at 20th Century Fox years ago nearly split Stan and Ollie up, but when Ollie falls seriously ill, it throws the tour into jeopardy. It's a part of Laurel and Hardy's history that not many people will know about, apart from it being mentioned in books on the duo, (one such book provided the influence for this). Coogan and Reilly make a great pairing, and they do the pair justice, getting their characteristics and mannerisms down perfectly. It's a shame it's been snubbed by the Oscars. 4/5

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Tomorrow at Ten (1962), directed by Lance Comfort (The Ugly Duckling (1959) and Devils of Darkness (1965)) and written by Peter Miller and James Kelley (TV's Bootsie and Snudge), this is a tense B-Movie thriller which is one of 60's British cinema's best kept secrets. It has a great cast and a good concept at the centre, and it shows that B-Movies could still pack a big punch. Somewhere in London, thief Marlow (Robert Shaw) kidnaps young Jonathan Chester (Piers Bishop), posing as the chauffeur for Jonathan's father Anthony Chester (Alec Clunes). Marlow locks Jonathan in an abandoned house somewhere in London, then he goes to see Anthony and tells him he will only reveal the whereabouts of Jonathan, in exchange for £50,000 and a safe passage to Brazil, it's not long before Inspector Parnell (John Gregson) is assigned to the case, and he urges Anthony not to pay up to Marlow, as it would set a bad example to others, but it's then that Marlow reveals that if he doesn't have the money and isn't on a plane to Brazil by 10am the next day, a bomb in Jonathan's toy gollywog, is set to go off. A battle of wits ensues. It's a surprisingly taut film which is almost forgotten now, but it has some great performances, such as Shaw just before he did From Russia With Love (1963), and Gregson later did Gideon's Way, and his part in this could be seen as a dry run for what was to come. But, it's certainly a film that deserves to be seen, for the concept and performances. 4/5

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All The Way Up (1970), the only cinema feature of veteran TV director James MacTaggart, (TV's The Wednesday Play and Storyboard), and adapted from David Turner's 1962 play Semi-Detached, this is a silly farce with a good British cast and a catchy theme tune to it's name, but that's about it, but it showed there was a lot more to it's star than Alf Garnett. Salesman Fred Midway (Warren Mitchell) is a serial social climber, with ideas above his station, and wanting to provide for his family wife Hilda (Pat Heywood), daughter Eileen (Elaine Taylor) and son Tom (Kenneth Cranham), Fred resorts to quite devious methods to rise up the social ladder, starting with poison pen letters discrediting his superiors, to resorting to blackmail to get to a higher position in work which he usually plots with Hilda, who wants to see the best for Fred, and Fred wants to use his new found power to help his children when they get married. However, the tables end up being turned when Fred ends up being blackmailed by a beleagured Tom, who wants to give his father a taste of his own medicine. It's quite a mean-spirited comedy, and Midway is definitely a prototype Thatcherite before that sort of thing became popular. Considering the original play was a flop at the time, it's lucky that a film version ever came to fruition. It should have been a good film, but it doesn't really work, despite the best intentions of everyone on board, it should have stayed on the stage. 2/5

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Greetings (1968), written, produced and directed by Brian De Palma, who started his career making small, cheap underground films on various subjects. However, his early films did showcase a lot of potential talent, some of whom went on to greater things. This was a satirical attack on Vietnam, the then burgeoning hippy movement and the Kennedy assassination. In New York, the film follows 3 friends, and their everyday lives, Paul Shaw (Jonathan Warden), a shy romantic, Lloyd Clay (Gerrit Graham), a conspiracy nut obsessed that the Kennedy assassination, and Jon Rubin (Robert De Niro), an aspiring filmmaker and peeping tom. All three friends are trying to avoid being drafted into the army and getting sent to Vietnam. (one of them will), Paul tries to find a partner with computer dating, but to no avail. Meanwhile, Lloyd's obsession with the Kennedy assassination and the conspiracy theories reach breaking point to the point where he stages his own recreation, while Jon makes a pornographic film, mainly to scratch his voyeuristic itch, but he still can't decide whether he wants to be a serious filmmaker or a pervert. It's a film about nothing, and it owes a lot to the French New Wave cinema of Godard and Truffaut, with improvisionational filming on the hoof and seeing what happens, which in this case is mostly nothing. While it is a very messy film, it's a decent enough timepiece, a dated one at that, but this, and it's quasai-sequel Hi, Mom! (1970), helped put De Palma on the road to Hollywood. 2.5/5

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The Wedding Party (1969), written, produced and directed by Brian De Palma, along with Wilford Leach and Cynthia Munroe. This was technically De Palma's first film as director, filmed back in 1963, and not finished until 1966, and it would take another 3 years before it found a distributor. It's a slight character farce, like Greetings (1968), is another film about nothing. Set on Shelter Island, a community on the eastern side of Long Island, New York, it follows Charlie (Charles Pfluger) and Josephine (Jill Clayburgh) are due to get married, with the wedding party to be held at Josephine's family house, as her family are incredibly well to do. Charlie's two friends and groomsmen, Alistair (William Finley) and Cecil (Robert De Niro), arrive the day before the wedding. Neither Alistair or Cecil believe in marriage, but they do believe in love. After going through the process of the wedding rehearsal, and the dinner and the stag party. Charlie starts to have second thoughts about getting married to Josephine, and comes up with a plan to try and sabotage the wedding, but he starts getting second thoughts on that. It's a daft little black and white satire, and while it's rough around the edges, but it's a miracle it got released at all, after the original distributor in 1966 went bankrupt, and De Palma spent the next 3 years trying to get the rights back. By then, Greetings (1968) had been made, so that enable it to be released. It's a cheapie indie flick, but it got De Palma going. 2.5/5

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Hi, Mom! (1970), directed by Brian De Palma, this was a sort-off sequel to Greetings (1968), although by this point, De Palma was starting to be noticed as an emerging talent, especially with the New Hollywood movement on the rise. It's an improvement on Greetings, as it has a more focused plot, and there are technical flourishes here that De Palma would use again. Jon Rubin (Robert De Niro) has just come back from Vietnam, and he rents a run down apartment in a seedy apartment block in Greenwich Village, New York. Jon still has voyeuristic tendencies, but is also wanting to become a filmmaker, so he places a camera from his window and films the apartment block across the street, and the neighbours in the different apartments. While focusing on the sexual activities of one apartment, the camera focuses on Gerrit Wood (Gerrit Graham), who is painting himself black, as part of an interactive theatre experience known as "Be Black Baby", where white people get to "live" the black experience, and Jon becomes part of the experience, but when one performance goes too far, Jon makes a decision. De Palma always liked to reference Hitchcock in his films, this is a homage to Rear Window (1954), with a hint of Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960) throughout, but it also has the clever editing that would be commonplace with De Palma in his future films. It's still not perfect and still rough around the edges, but after this, De Palma was making films for the studios with bigger budgets. 3/5

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Welcome to Marwen (2018), directed by Robert Zemeckis, who co-wrote the screenplay with Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands (1990) and The Addams Family (1991)), this is based on the true story of Mark Hogancamp. This turned out to be a massive critical and commercial flop, but truth be told, it's not that bad, but the film's tone is all over the place. Mark Hogancamp (Steve Carell) was an illustrator who was attacked outside a bar by white supremacists, he was in a coma for weeks and now suffers PTSD and has made a model village called Marwen, where he has a doll version of himself called Cap'n Hogie, and there are female dolls keeping the village at peace from the Nazi's, and Mark finds solace in the model village, and takes pictures of the dolls in various situations, and have garnered positive attention from people. Meanwhile, in the real world, Mark is due to give a victim impact statement against the supremacists who attacked him, but Mark has strong support, not least from new neighbour Collette (Leslie Mann) and hobby shop worker Roberta (Merritt Wever). Welcome to Marwen is a mind-boggling oddity, and it doesn't know what it wants to be, a quirky fantasy about dolls or a dark drama about mental illness, it tries to have it's cake and eat it with both, with only varying success. It would have worked better as a low budget Terry Gilliam film, but there was a lot riding on the film, but it's nowhere near as bad as some say it is. 4/5

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Vice (2018), written and directed by Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and The Big Short (2015)), this is a very offbeat, freestyle look at the life of Dick Cheney, a very private man who has kept his private life just that, apart from being in the public spotlight as Vice President. Vice is buoyed by a brilliant and engaging lead performance. Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) was a college dropout and heavy drinking linesman, who after one brush with the law too many in 1963, is told to change by his strong willed wife Lynne (Amy Adams). By 1969, Cheney is working in the White House for the Nixon Administration under economic advisor Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell). By 1979, Cheney becomes a senator for Wyoming, and it looks by the 1990's that he and his wife will retire. Then Cheney gets a call from George W. Bush (Sam Rockwell), who is looking to run for President, and he wants Cheney as his running mate, Cheney accepts on condition he gets to handle the more "mundane" jobs, but along with Rumsfeld, he'll be in control of government departments, especially when 9/11 happens. It's a very good film, but it's very uneven, and something like this would have been better in the hands of someone like Armando Iannucci, who has a better grasp of political satire, but Bale's transformation into Cheney is unbelievable, and Rockwell is jaw-droppingly convincing as Bush, but a more serious, focused depiction of Cheney's life would have worked better. 4/5

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The Mule (2018), directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, who hasn't acted on screen since Trouble With The Curve (2012), but then along came The New York Times article "The Sinaloa Cartel's 90-Year-Old Drug Mule" by Sam Dolnick. Clint has been lured back to the front of the camera once more. It's a pretty predictable affair, but it's still an enjoyable crime drama. In Peoria, Illinois. Earl Stone (Eastwood) always put his horticultural business ahead of his family, which led to wife Mary (Dianne Wiest) divorcing him, and the rest of the family becoming estranged from him. Now facing financial ruin, and after a chance meeting, Earl finds himself becoming a drugs mule for a local cartel, transporting drugs from El Paso, Texas up to Illinois. Earl uses the money to get a new truck, save his business and help his granddaughter's wedding. Even the cartel, led by Laton (Andy García) warm to Earl and call him Tata (Grandfather), but it's not long before the DEA, led by agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) try to find out where all these drugs are coming from, but they don't suspect Earl. It's a film which sounds very unbelievable, but it's true, even if they have taken some liberties with the truth. But, despite falling into all the old clichés, the film still manages to work and seeing Clint on the screen is always worth the price of admission, it's great that he's still working. 4/5

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Green Book (2018), co-written and directed by Peter Farrelly, best known for the bad taste comedies he made with his brother Bobby, here goes solo and tries something completely different. A moving comedy-drama inspired by a true story about two very different people,then it won some of the top Oscars. Is it worthy? Time will tell, but it's got some good performances in it. In 1962, New York bouncer Frank "Tony Lip" Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) suddenly finds himself out of work for a few months, and out of the blue, he gets an offer to be chauffeur for classical jazz pianist Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on an 8 week tour of the United States, including the Deep South. At first, these two couldn't be more different. Shirley is a man of taste and refinement and he's horrified by Tony's boorish manners, and Tony is irked by Shirley pulling him up and telling Tony to act with more refinement. However, when they enter the Deep South, Tony is appalled at the treatment Shirley receives from racists. and while in a situation like this, Tony would resort to violence to sort it out, Shirley teaches Tony to be the bigger man and walk away. While the film has been criticised for how it handled race, and even Shirley's own family are nonplussed by it claiming they weren't consulted, it's worth it for Mortensen and Ali sparking off one another, and learning from one another, and it's got a gentle sense of humour about it. But, we now live in a world where one of the Farrelly Brothers now has 2 Oscars, who saw that coming? 4/5

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019), the third instalment in the How To Train Your Dragon series, based on the books by Cressida Cowell, and it's become DreamWorks' most successful franchise since the days of Shrek, (Kung Fu Panda loyalists, simmer down), but for the final film in the franchise, it goes out with a more emotionally engaging film. In the land of Berk, Viking Chief Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his team continue to rescue captured dragons, and bring them to Berk, where humans and dragons live peacefully in co-existence. However, with Berk becoming over crowded with Dragons, Hiccup plans to look for The Hidden World, a safe haven for dragons. However, when Hiccup's dragon Toothless finds a white night fury just like him, he's found love. However the white dragon is bait set by the evil Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham), who plans to capture all the dragons on Berk, but Hiccup has everyone escape and they find an island to rest on, but knowing the dragons aren't safe, Hiccup and Toothless have to find the Hidden World quickly before Grimmel does. It's a very imaginative sequel, and while it doesn't quite pack the emotional punch that say, Toy Story 3 did, this doesn't need to, it touches on emotional themes such as finding love and having to say goodbye, but it doesn't over sentimentalise it. It's got suspense, humour and spectacle, and it touches on the one thing in life everyone goes through. Growing up. 4/5

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The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019), it was bound to happen. They've been working towards this for 5 years and with 2 spin offs in-between, it's finally here. Directed by Mike Mitchell, (Shrek Forever After (2010) and Trolls (2016), this is a fun sequel with a lot of imagination on display, some clever gags, although it doesn't reach the heights that the first film did. 5 years have passed since Taco Tuesday, when Duplo Aliens came and destroyed Bricksburg, which has now become Apocalypseburg. But Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) remains optimistic, and wants to build a dream house for his girlfriend Lucy (Elizabeth Banks). But when Lucy, along with Batman (Will Arnett), Benny (Charlie Day), Unikitty (Alison Brie) and Metalbeard (Nick Offerman) are captured by General Mayhem (Stephanie Beatriz) and sent to Queen Watevra Wa'Nabi (Tiffany Haddish) of the Systar System. Emmet goes off to rescue them, going into deep space and being rescued by rugged explorer Rex Dangervest (Pratt again), whose tough side impresses Emmet, who wants to use that to impress Lucy when he rescues her and the gang. It is a very good film, but the makers haven't really added anything new to the mix, and it's been 5 years since the first film, despite some very good imaginative details contrasting it with the real world of two kids playing with Lego. But, there is plenty to admire about it with the characters and the humour, but it's fell into the trap of movie sequels that can't really build on the success of the first. 4/5

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Alita: Battle Angel (2019), directed by Robert Rodriguez, and written and produced by James Cameron, adapted from the 90's Japanese manga series Gunnm by Yukito Kishiro. Cameron had wanted to direct this one for years, but put it aside in favour of Titanic and Avatar, then he bequeathed it to Rodriguez, who creates a very inventive and likable film. Set in the 26th Century, 300 years after Earth was devastated by a war known as The Fall, in Iron City, scientist Dr. Dyson Ido (Christoph Waltz) finds a disembodied female cyborg with a fully functioning human brain, he brings it back to his lab and reassembles her with other parts he has, and names her Alita, after his dead daughter. When Alita (Rosa Salazar) awakes, she has no memory of her past life, but Ido teaches her basic skills, but Alita is curious about outside, and soon befriends scrap dealer Hugo (Keean Johnson), who introduces Alita to Motorball, a violent sport played by cyborgs. Alita wants to play Motorball, but her presence leads to interest by Zapan (Ed Skrein) as well as the mysterious entrepreneur Vector (Mahershala Ali). While it is a very inventive film, and Cameron had to invent technology just to bring it to vivid life, it's a shame the same can't be said of the story which is quite cliched, but it's still good to look at, and it's good to see Rodriguez play around with a big budget after years of making films no more expensive than $30 million. But, chances are there might be a sequel on the way. 3.5/5

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The Kid Who Would Be King (2019), written and directed by Joe Cornish (Attack The Block (2011)), this is an old school fantasy adventure that harks back to 80's fantasy adventures, especially involving kids. It's also got a great sense of clever humour, and it has fun with the old legend of King Arthur, injecting new blood into it, the result is the best film of the year so far. Set in Brexit Britain, where people are dejected and miserable, schoolboy Alexander Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is having trouble at school, when he tries to defend his friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) from being bullied by older students Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris), he soon ends up incurring the wrath of Lance and Kaye, who chase Alexander into a building site. In the site, Alexander finds an old sword, which he discovers to be Excalibur. It's not long before a weird teenager called Merlin (Angus Imrie) who can age between his older self (Patrick Stewart) appears telling Alexander he and the rest of the world are in danger from the wicked sorceress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson) and he needs to bring a team together to bring Morgana down. It's a very exciting adventure, and Cornish's love of old fantasy adventures shines through, and it's a shame that it hasn't done as well as it should have, as this is exactly the sort of film we should be seeing. It mixes old Arthurian legends with modern day observations, and it proves to be enthralling and entertaining, let's hope Cornish has plenty more tricks up his sleeve. 5/5

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Fighting With My Family (2019), written and directed by Stephen Merchant, (his first solo film after co-directing Cemetery Junction (2010)), this is based on the 2012 documentary The Wrestlers: Fighting With My Family by Max Fisher, depicting the WWE career of professional wrestler Paige. It's a shaggy dog rags to riches story with a lot of heart and humour. In Norwich, Zak Bevis (Jack Lowden) and his sister Sayara (Florence Pugh) are addicted to wrestling, it runs in the family with their Dad Patrick (Nick Frost) and Mum Julia (Lena Headey) are wrestlers on the British independent circuit and they have their own wrestling school. When Zak and Sayara try out for a WWE SmackDown at the o2 Arena, under trainer Hutch Morgan (Vince Vaughn). Sayara gets to go to America to train to be a WWE Wrestler, Zak doesn't. While Zak is delighted for Sayara, he's still gutted as it was his dream to go to America, and he goes to pieces. Over in America, Sayara has difficulty adjusting to the American way of wrestling, and getting on with her competitors, but she gets advice from Dwayne Johnson. It follows all the old clichés that sports films does, but it does it right, and while it does resort to smutty comedy in places, especially with the parents, it's still an emotionally engaging film, contrasting the glitzy, glamour of the American way of wrestling compared with the homebrew independent wrestling of Norwich, and the latter way is the more entertaining. 4/5

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Captain Marvel (2019), directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck (Sugar (2008) and Mississippi Grind (2015)), Marvel turns it's attention to Carol Danvers, created in 1968 by Roy Thomas and artist Gene Colan, although she didn't officially become Captain Marvel until 2012. It's a fun adventure, a bit on the complex side, but it plays well with 90's nostalgia and is good origin story. On the planet of Hala, Starforce member Vers (Brie Larson) keeps having recurring nightmares, whilst on a mission with commander Yon-Rogg (Jude Law), Vers is captured by Skrull leader Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), but Vers escapes to Earth, and crashes in Los Angeles, 1995. Her presence attracts S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Phil Coulson (Gregg Clark). After extracting Vers' memories, they find she's called Carol Danvers, and was seemingly killed in 1989 during a top secret installation called Project Pegasus, which Danvers flew an experimental jet designed by Dr. Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening), which is confirmed by pilot Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch), who was the last person to see Danvers alive before the jet crashed. It's a well made superhero film, with some good set pieces throughout, but it doesn't add anything new to the superhero genre, and there must have been a way of simplifying the plot without making it complex, but it's well worth it for Goose the cat, and Larson makes a brilliant Danvers, it also sets the stage well for what's to come in Avengers: Endgame. 4/5

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Dumbo (2019), directed by Tim Burton, the idea of remaking Disney's 1941 animated weepie was an odd one, but Burton was determined to make it work, it wasn't a remake, but a whole new story concocted by writer Ehren Kruger (The Brothers Grimm (2005)), and it's actually a very uplifting and visually stunning film, with some good flairs of imagination on display. 1919, Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) has returned from the WW1 to work for the Medici Brothers' Circus, run by Max Medici (Danny DeVito). Holt lost an arm, and his wife, who was a performer, died from Spanish Flu, so he came back to raise his children Joe (Finley Hobbins) and Milly (Nico Parker). Holt is put in charge of the elephants, and seeing to Mrs. Jumbo who is about to have a baby, the baby elephant is born and he has huge ears which horrifies Medici. The baby elephant is named Dumbo, and it turns out he can fly, which revives the circuses fortunes and eventually captures the attention of entrepreneur V. A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who tempts Medici to his amusement park Wonderland, but there's a price... It's well made, but you get the nagging feeling that Burton is treading water, and could be making better films, and do we really need more live action remakes of Disney cartoons? But, it's well made, and putting Burton and circuses together is always a good idea, and seeing him work with Keaton and DeVito again is well worth seeing, but it's a shame it hasn't done as well as it should. 4/5

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The Long Memory (1953), based on the 1951 novel of the same name by Howard Clewes. and directed by Robert Hamer (Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and School for Scoundrels (1960)), this is a dark, noir thriller which makes great use of the North Kent Marshes on the Thames Estuary, and it's a dark tale of vengeance and retribution, and with some good performances. Phillip Davidson (John Mills) has just spent 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit, framed for murdering criminal Boyd (John Chandos) when a boat caught fire. Davidson has had 12 years to think, and to get revenge on those who put him in prison, but he's kept under surveillance by Superintendent Bob Lowther (John McCallum), who is now married to Davidson's old girlfriend Fay (Elizabeth Sellars). Davidson sleeps rough on an old barge, belonging to hermit Jackson (Michael Martin Harvey), and Davidson eventually befriends a refugee Ilse (Eva Bergh), who he allows to stay on the barge, eventually Davidson finds work as a bargeman, but makes a horrific discovery when delivering to George Berry, who is really Boyd. It's one of British cinema's best kept secrets, very bleak and stark with the locations adding to the dark mood, and it's a good timepiece of how Shad Thames and the Thames Estuary used to be back in those days as most of it is gone now. It has some good performances in it, including Mills, but it's a wonder this isn't more well known, as it deserves to have better exposure. 4/5

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Morgan – A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966), directed by Karel Reisz (Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) and The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)), and based on a BBC play by David Mercer. This is a very offbeat and daft satirical comedy, it's the sort of film Richard Lester would have made, but it's got a good cast and some mad offbeat scenes. Morgan Delt (David Warner) is a failed artist, and raised as a communist. His wife Leonie (Vanessa Redgrave), who is very upper class, has given up on him, having lost patience with Morgan's mood swings years ago, and now wants to divorce Morgan so she can marry Charles Napier (Robert Stephens), who owns a very posh art gallery. As a result of this, Morgan goes insane, and goes to extreme lengths with outrageous stunts to win Leonie back, from putting a skeleton in her bed to getting wrestler Wally "The Gorilla" (Arthur Mullard), a friend of Morgan's Mum (Irene Handl), to kidnap Leonie, it all reaches a head at the wedding between Leonie and Napier, when Morgan crashes it dressed as a Gorilla in a King Kong style fantasy. It's nonchalant attitude to mental illness might be dated by todays standards, but it's well made, and it's well worth it for the performances from Warner and Redgrave, Warner seems to be channelling Peter Cook in his role. But, you got loads of films like this, with flights of fantasy in everyday mundane settings, although the original BBC play was darker with drink being the cause of madness rather than being mad for madness' sake, but it's still a funny oddity. 3.5/5

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Shazam! (2019), after a decade of DC comic adaptations that have either been great, OK and just been bad, DC decided to let their hair down and have some fun. Shazam! started in comics as Captain Marvel in 1939, but became Shazam! after Marvel sued. Directed by David F. Sandberg (Annabelle: Creation (2017)), this shows DC can make great superhero films with the right material. In Philadelphia, foster child Billy Batson (Asher Angel) runs foul of the law looking for his real mother, so he's put into a foster home run by Victor and Rosa Vasquez (Cooper Andrews and Marta Milans), and Billy befriends his new foster brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) who is a comic book nerd. After saving Freddy from bullies, Billy hides on the Philadelphia subway, where he finds himself summoned to the Rock of Eternity, where the wizard Shazam (Djimon Hounsou) is looking for a champion, and gives Billy the ability to turn into an adult superhero (Zachary Levi), but only Billy and Freddy know this, but it's not long before Dr. Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) comes looking for Billy, as he once saw the Rock of Eternity before. It's a very good origin story, not too complicated and it's puts it's characters first and foremost before all the spectacle, and it's got a good sense of humour, which has been missing from most of the more recent DC films, and focusing on other characters in the DC Universe is a good thing rather than rebooting Batman and Superman over and again, let's hope they do more like this. 4/5

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Missing Link (2019), from Laika, who's stop motion works have been exemplary, their 5th feature, directed by Chris Butler (ParaNorman (2012)), is a more fun buddy buddy caper than the heavy going mythology of Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)), it's visually stunning and it's got some great imagery and a good vocal cast as well, just a shame it's been a massive flop. It begins in 1886, when Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) has just returned from searching for mythical creatures, but his snobbish peers, led by Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) who refuse to let him join their society, but when Sir Lionel gets a letter confirming a sighting of a Sasquatch in the Pacific Northwest, he heads out looking for it. The Sasquatch is called Mr. Link (Zach Galifianakis) and he's looking for his own kind, and he sent the letter to Sir Lionel. In return, Sir Lionel agrees to help him, believing Mr. Link's kind will be in the Himalayas. So they head out, with Lord Piggot-Dunceby in pursuit, but Sir Lionel and Mr. Link have help from explorer Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana), who is also Sir Lionel's ex-girlfriend. It's a very uplifting and beautiful animation, and Laika's work makes a nice antidote to the CGI films Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks make, it's Laika and Aardman who are flying the flag for stop motion animation, and we need their output more than ever. But, this is Laika's most laid back and accessible offering to date, no ghouls or darkness, just happy and upbeat all the way. 4.5/5

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Monty Python's Life of Brian (1979), after Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) was successful, the team wanted to do another film, and decided to take on religion, or how religion is interpreted. It took a lot of research, a writing holiday to Barbados, and divine intervention from George Harrison to bring Monty Python's finest 90 minutes to life, it hasn't aged a day. Judea A.D. 33, Brian Cohen (Graham Chapman) was born next door to Jesus, and lives with his nagging mother the Virgin Mandy (Terry Jones), and he soon finds himself joining the People's Front of Judea led by Reg (John Cleese), Francis (Michael Palin) and Stan/Loretta (Eric Idle). After being captured while trying to kidnap the wife of Pontius Pilate (Palin again), Brian escapes and to get away from the Roman Guard, and whilst amongst a load of prophets, ends up making up stuff he heard Jesus say to a crowd, just until the Roman Guard move on. Once they've gone, Brian realises he now has followers who take any gesture, such as a gourd or a misplaced shoe as miraculous signs from the new Messiah, but all Brian wants is to be left alone and move on. It's still a wickedly funny look at religion, but it also says a lot about life now such as unions and politics. Unsurprisingly, the religious part got them into trouble, but the more people got up in arms about it, the more people went to see it. It's still a powerful, uplifting and hilarious spoof, beautifully made and with all the Python's on fine form. Truly the Greatest Story Ever Told. 5/5

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Wild Rose (2018), directed by Tom Harper (The Scouting Book for Boys (2009) and The Woman in Black: Angel of Death (2014)), and written by Nicole Taylor, (TV's Indian Summers and The C Word), this is a very British take on A Star Is Born, one with a Ken Loach streak of realism, but there's a sense of optimism throughout, and it's got a breakout performance at it's heart. In Glasgow, young single mother Rose-Lynn Harlan (Jessie Buckley) has just come out of prison on a drugs charge, and comes home to her two children Wynonna (Daisy Littlefield) and Lyle (Adam Mitchell), who have been looked after by Rose-Lynn's mother Marion (Julie Walters). Rose-Lynn's dream is to go to Nashville, and be a country and western singer, before she went to jail she performed at Glasgow's Grand Ole Opry in Govan, and she's not going to give in. She gets a job as a cleaner for Susannah (Sophie Okonedo), a rich middle class woman who takes a shine to Rose-Lynn's singing, and is able to get her a spot on BBC Radio down in London, but to follow her dream, Rose-Lynn must make a tough choice regarding her family. It's heavy going, but it's well worth it for Jessie Buckley's performance, and this should put her on the road to greater things, even if her character is borderline unlikeable as she's putting her dream first rather than her kids. It's got some good country music in it too, and while it's follow-your-dream cliché has been seen before, it's done well here. 4/5

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Mid90s (2018), the directorial debut of Jonah Hill, this semi-autobiographical comedy drama came from Hill's own childhood experiences growing up in the titular mid 1990's, but Hill took influence from other coming-of-age films such as Kids (1995), Ratcatcher (1999) and This Is England (2006). The result is a heartfelt and very natural film, very engaging and authentic too. In the mid-1990's in Los Angeles, 13 year old Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives his mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) and his bullying older brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). One day he passes the Motor Avenue Skateshop, and he's tempted in by the skating lifestyle, he befriends the store worker Ruben (Gio Galicia) and his friends Ray (Na-Kel Smith), Fuckshit (Olan Prenatt) and Fourth Grade (Ryder McLaughlin). Stevie gets his own skateboard and takes it to the store to get it modified, and he soon starts hanging out with this gang, even though they're much older than he is, his family, including Ian, don't like Stevie hanging out with this gang, and Stevie manages to alienate Ian and mother Dabney, by dabbling with drink, drugs and sex, and it soon goes wrong. Despite being made on a low budget, it's well made, and the youngsters playing the skater gang had never acted before, but watching this, you'd never guess, as they give very natural performances, and Hill's direction is confident and done with a Dogme 95 realism, shot on 16mm film in a fullscreen format, it's a very real film, and hopefully on the strength of this, Hill will be back directing soon. 5/5

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Avengers: Endgame (2019) ...and so it's come to this. After Avengers: Infinity War (2018) left audiences shellshocked by the lack of hope our heroes faced at the hands of Thanos. Directors Anthony and Joe Russo are back to conclude it all, and finish Phase 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it's an awesome, emotionally fitting conclusion to this epic saga. After Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped half the universe away, the remaining heroes Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) go to defeat Thanos, with help from Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), who saved Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) from death in deep space. Thor kills Thanos, but it doesn't bring everyone back. 5 years later, Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) escapes from the Quantum Realm, and goes to the Avengers, proving time travel is possible, and convincing everyone, including Stark, that they could go back in time, to key events, collect the soul stones that Thanos used to snap half the universe away, and use them to snap it back, the remaining team boot up to do it, but it'll come at a cost. They've definitely saved the best until last, and it's such an emotional gut-punch as well, and even the most hardened moviegoer will be moved to tears at the sacrifices that happens in this film. Everyone is at the top of their game in this film, and it closes one door on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it opens a new door and indeed many other doors, including X-Men... 5/5

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2001: A Spacy Odyssey (1968), after Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick wanted to make a film about extra terrestrials, a chance suggestion led him to Arthur C. Clarke, and Clarke's 1948 short story The Sentinel, this was the genesis for Kubrick's space opera. It's basically the sci-fi equivalent of Fantasia (1940), it's of it's time, but even now, it looks and feels groundbreaking. It's a film of 4 acts. Millions of years ago, a tribe of ape like hominids, influenced by the arrival of a monolith become influenced how to use weapons. Jump millions of years later, and Dr. Heywood Floyd (William Sylvester) travels to the moon to investigate the excavation of a monolith, which is estimated to have been there for 4 million years. 18 months later, Discovery One is heading for Jupiter, Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Dr. Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood) man the ship controlled by supercomputer HAL 9000 (voiced by Douglas Rain), but it turns out HAL is a lot more sentient than the crew have bargained for, and after HAL takes control of the ship and Bowman takes back control, he too see's a monolith, and follows it through a star gate... Plot doesn't seem to matter with this film, it's a visual experience, it's a thoughtful experience, and some of the effects and technology had to be invented for this film, and it still looks stunning now. This is a film which leaves more questions than answers, but in a good way, about life in the universe and evolution. This film cemented Kubrick's reputation as an artist. 5/5

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Cold Pursuit (2019), a Hollywood remake of the 2014 Norwegian film In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten), in fact they got that film's director Hans Petter Moland, to direct the Hollywood remake. It's a very odd film, it's a black comedy cut from similar cloth to Fargo (1996) in how it deals with death. It's got a good roster of characters though, maybe too many. In Kehoe, Colorado. Snowplow driver Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) finds out his son Kyle (Micheál Richardson) has died from a forced heroin overdose, Nels contemplates suicide, but decides to go after who killed his son, who turns out to be Denver drug lord Trevor "Viking" Calcote (Tom Bateman). After Coxman kills 3 of Calcote's men, Calcote meanwhile incorrectly assumes the deaths were ordered by Ute gangster White Bull (Tom Jackson), so Calcote kills Bull's only son, and this starts a war between the two sides. Meanwhile, it's getting Coxman no nearer to Calcote, so his brother Brock (William Forsythe) recommends hitman Eskimo (Arnold Pinnock), but that backfires when Eskimo tries to betray Coxman to Calcote, and Eskimo ends up dead. It's very complicated, and it's a different kind of Liam Neeson action thriller, this has more of a dark wit and very colourful characters in it, and it's very unconventional in how it's story is played out. It's got some good set pieces, and the cold wilderness of Colorado is very haunting, but there's so much going on, it's hard to keep track of who's who in the film. 3/5

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Pokémon Detective Pikachu (2019), the first live action film based on the Pokémon franchise, more accurately the 2016 video game Detective Pikachu. Even early in development, alarm bells were ringing with fans, but the makers, including director Rob Letterman (Goosebumps (2015), were confident, they had one massive ace up their sleeve, and that was Ryan Reynolds. In the Pokémon universe, 21 year old insurance worker Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) travels to Ryme City after he hears his estranged father is dead. He collects his father's assets from Detective Hideo Yoshida (Ken Watanabe), and goes to his father's apartment, where he discovers a Pikachu in a deerstalker who can talk English and only Tim can understand, this Pikachu (Reynolds) says he was Tim's father's partner, and he doesn't know why only Tim can understand him and no-one else can. Investigating further into what happened to Tim's father take's them to Ryme City's creator Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy), who tells Tim and Pikachu that Tim's father was involved in an accident with an escaped Mewtwo, leading our heroes to go undercover at a lab. It's a daft, colourful and very enjoyable buddy movie, it puts it's story and characters first, then focuses on the Pokémon brand. It's a rare video game film which actually works, and one big reason is down to Reynolds' spirited, inspired vocal performance as Pikachu, basically a kiddie friendly Deadpool, and he brings that same mentality to Pikachu, minus the swearing, and it works. Roll on the sequel! 4/5

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Rocketman (2019), directed by Dexter Fletcher (Eddie the Eagle (2016)), and riding on the coattails of Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), which Fletcher helped save from disaster when Bryan Singer was sacked. This is a different beast though, more Ken Russell than anything. This is Elton John's life story told HIS way, this is no conventional biopic, it's a full blown musical fantasy. Reg Dwight (Taron Egerton) was raised by his unaffectionate mother Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and his more loving Grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones) after his father Stanley (Steven Mackintosh) leaves home. Reg is a piano prodigy, and tours with blues bands in the 60's, but he needs good material to break through. He meets aspiring writer Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), and Reg writes music to Bernie's words, and Reg becomes Elton John. Thanks to Dick James (Stephen Graham), Elton gets a residency at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, and his songs immediately catch on, it's not long before Elton rises to the top, and becomes one of the most sought after musicians of the 1970's, but hardships and a drugs and drink battle soon follow. It's very colourful and very over the top, but it's perfect that way, as it's very Elton John. There's lavish musical numbers done to his songs, it's beautifully made and it's topped off with a brilliant lead role by Egerton as Elton, who relishes dressing up and singing too, and it also shows what a brilliant director Fletcher is, and hopefully, this will lead him on to much greater things. 5/5

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Aladdin (2019), with nearly every Disney animation now being remade in live action, it was only a matter of time before Aladdin came up, and they gave the directing reins to Guy Ritchie. All bets were off with how it would turn out, but it's actually pretty good, although it's almost a shot for shot remake of the cartoon version, and it does go overboard on the CGI as well. In the Arabian city of Agrabah, street rat Aladdin (Mena Massoud) saves Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott), who had snuck out of the palace from getting into trouble. Later, Aladdin sneaks back into the palace to see Jasmine, but is captured by Grand Vizier Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), and offers to spare Aladdin's life if he retrieves a magic lamp that will grant 3 wishes. In the cave, Jafar betrays Aladdin, but Aladdin gets the lamp which he rubs and unleashes Genie (Will Smith) who will grant Aladdin 3 wishes. Aladdin wants to impress Jasmine, so Genie makes him a Prince, but Jafar sees through this, and he wants the lamp to overthrow Jasmine's father The Sultan (Navid Negahban), but Aladdin is initially oblivious to this, as he's smitten for Jasmine. It's very grand and epic, and the sets and costumes are very grand, but that's it. It's just a carbon copy of the original, hitting all the same beats and redoing the same set pieces. It adds nothing new to Aladdin, it could have expanded it or took it in another direction, but it doesn't. It is a good film, but all Ritchie has done is what Gus Van Sant did with Psycho, close but no cigar. 3/5

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The Secret Life of Pets 2 (2019), from Illumination Entertainment, and directed by Chris Renaud (Despicable Me (2010) and The Lorax (2012)), the first film was a big hit in 2016, and so a sequel was inevitable. Despite some good moments, and an episodic plot that all comes together at the end, it falls into the trap of not adding anything new with the story or characters. Jack Russell terrier Max (Patton Oswalt) and Newfoundland mix Duke (Eric Stonestreet) live with owner Katie (Ellie Kemper) gets married to Chuck (Pete Holmes) and they have a son Liam (Henry Lynch), this gives Max a new sense of responsibility, which is heightened further when on a trip to the country, he gets life lessons from sheepdog Rooster (Harrison Ford). Meanwhile, rabbit Snowball (Kevin Hart) helps Shih Tzu Daisy (Tiffany Haddish) to free a white tiger named Hu, who she met on a cargo hold on a plane. Turns out Hu, is being held by evil Russian circus owner Sergei (Nick Kroll), while Max's friend Pomeranian Gidget (Jenny Slate), gets into trouble with a load of feral cats in an apartment downstairs. It's very daft, and they are likable characters, and there is some good laughs throughout, there's nothing that stands out or makes it anymore special than the original film, other than they coaxed Harrison Ford into being in it. It's the sort of film you watch for an hour and a half, you enjoy it at the time, you come out and an hour later, you can't remember anything about it. 3/5

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How I Won The War (1967), after the successes of A Hard Day's Night (1964), Help! (1965) and A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum (1966), Richard Lester chose for his next film this dark war satire based upon Patrick Ryan's 1963 novel, which questions the need and relevence of war. It's gallows humour, but it's alot more relevent now than what you might think. This one follows the exploits of an army regiment, 3rd Troop, the 4th Musketeers, led by Lieutenant Earnest Goodbody (Michael Crawford), who is naïve and accident prone. He's been assigned by Colonel Grapple (Michael Hordern) to go out behind enemy lines in Tunisia to set up an "Advanced Area Cricket Pitch." His team of soldiers include Gripweed (John Lennon), Clapper (Roy Kinnear), Sergeant Transom (Lee Montague), Juniper (Jack MacGowran), Spool (Ronald Lacey) and Drogue (James Cossins). But, Goodbody's attempts at heroic derring-do end up getting most of his regiment killed, but still they press on into the desert to set up the cricket pitch, and the remaining men take on Holland and Germany, where Goodbody recalls his tales to Odlebog (Karl Michael Vogler) at the Rhine bridgehead in 1945. It's a very peculiar film, using surreal dialogue and characters to question the idealism and philosophy of warfare. Crawford does Frank Spencer stunts, and Lennon is his usual self if criminally underused, (he's actually a good actor when he's on screen). But, you could use this to question the wars our world is in now. 4/5

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Dark Phoenix (2019), and so it's come to this, the final X-Men film under the old guard, and it was a nightmarish production. It was the directorial debut of writer/producer Simon Kinberg, who gave the franchise a shot in the arm a few years back, but half of it was reshot as Captain Marvel (2019) stole it's thunder, and then Fox was sold to Disney. But, it's not that bad. In 1992, the X-Men go up to save the space shuttle Endeavour, after it's involved in an accident with a solar flare. While all the astronauts are saved, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is hit by the energy of the solar flare, which she absorbs. Back on earth, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult) examine her, but can't see anything wrong, but Jean starts hearing voices, and she ends up being visited by Vuk (Jessica Chastain), who's alien race was responsible for the solar flare, and Vuk wants to help Grey shape this power into something that will destroy the world, but Xavier wants to save Grey, believing the real Grey is in there somewhere, while Magneto (Michael Fassbender) wants to kill Grey altogether. It's very confusing in places, and you can see the true intentions of what Kinberg had in mind, to do a proper version of X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), but it ends up being more of a convoluted mess than X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) was, and it's a shame a once great franchise has ended like this. Well, there's the New Mutants to come, as well as another Deadpool. Keeping the link to the old guard alive. 2.5/5

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A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966), after Help! (1965), Richard Lester got offers from Hollywood, and hes was offered this hit Broadway musical created by Stephen Sondheim, Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart. While the film version is trimmed down considerably, it does have a good ensemble cast, and it showed Lester handling a bigger budget. Set in Ancient Rome, it has slave Pseudolus (Zero Mostel, brilliant as always) whose master is Senex (Michael Hordern). Senex's son is Hero (Michael Crawford) who yearns for Philia (Annette Andre), who is at the brothel next door. So, Hero and Pseudolus come up with a plan to try and get Philia, in return, Hero will grant Pseudolus his freedom. Next door is a bordello, owned by Marcus Lycus (Phil Silvers), and they learn that Philia has been sold to the fearful Captain Miles Gloriosus (Leon Greene). So, Pseudolus comes up with a lie or three, and Hero and Philia run away, but they still have the problem of what to do when Captain Gloriosus arrives, and their plan involves Senex's head servant Hysterium (Jack Gilford), going in drag to pass off as Philia to the Captain. It's a big farce, the sort you don't really get anymore, and the film version cuts alot of the songs from the original stage version in favour of madcap humour. But, it has a good cast including Buster Keaton, Roy Kinnear, John Bluthal, Alfie Bass, Frank Thornton, Peter Butterworth, Jon Pertwee and Ingrid Pitt!! 3.5/5

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Men in Black: International (2019), after the original trilogy of Men in Black films that ran from 1997 to 2012, the makers decided it was time to open up the universe a bit, and do a spin-off. Directed by F. Gary Gray (The Negotiator (1998) and The Italian Job (2003)), this has all good intentions, but it doesn't add anything new other than remaking the first Men In Black. Molly Wright (Tessa Thompson) once saw the Men in Black neuralyse her parents in 1996, and she's spent years trying to find out about them, and she finds their base by chance. She goes in, and is arrested by Agent O (Emma Thompson), who decides to give her a chance as an agent, so Molly, or Agent M as she's assigned, is given a probationary period to prove herself in the MIB headquarters in London, ran by High T (Liam Neeson), she's partnered with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). First job, they're out with alien Vungus the Ugly (Kayvan Novak) and they're ambushed by aliens who harvest pure energy, and they're after a crystal Vungus had, which turns out to be a weapon powered by a star, which could end the world in the wrong hands. It's got some good set pieces, but we've seen it all before in the last 3 films, and doing a spin-off needs more than just introducing new characters, it has to have more than that. It's not a total write-off, Hemsworth and Thompson spark well off one another, but they did that in Thor: Ragnarok (2017), there's nothing really impressive about the film in general. 3/5

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Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019), directed by Martin Scorsese, who worked on this during the lengthy post-production of The Irishman (2019), this tells the story of Bob Dylan's Rolling Thunder Revue tour in 1975 and 1976, but it's not a conventional documentary, as massive swathes of this are made up, but the film doesn't tell you which bits are real and fiction, but it's so convincing, you'd never guess. The documentary has talking heads from Bob Dylan himself and members of his band on the tour including Ronee Blakley, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Roger McGuinn and Ronnie Hawkins. It took place at a time of social and political upheaval in America, especially with America's Bicentennial coming up, Dylan got together with other Greenwich Village musicians, and went on the road in New England and Canada, the tour was documented by European filmmaker Stefan Van Dorp (Martin Von Haselberg), and a 19 year old Sharon Stone somehow ended up on the road with them, and even Joni Mitchell joined the tour halfway through, and poet Allen Ginsberg did readings on stage. Some of the above is true, some of it is not, the documentary filmmaker is a fabrication, as was Sharon Stone being on the tour. But, if you didn't know anything about Dylan, you'd believe it. It's the most deceptive freeform documentary since Orson Welles' F for Fake (1973), but it shows how talented Scorsese is as a director, and he concocted a good shaggy dog documentary here. 4/5

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Toy Story 4 (2019), when it was announced that Disney and Pixar were going to make Toy Story 4, many responded "Why?" Toy Story 3 (2010) was the perfect crescendo to the series, and why would you want to make more, especially with Pixar's recent track record? But, we needn't have worried, they'd struck upon a great story, with the door open for more. Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and the other toys now live with Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), who is about to start kindergarten, and she comes back with a toy she made in class, a spork called Forky (Tony Hale), who comes to life, and can't figure out his purpose in life, Woody decides to look out for Forky. While on a road trip in a campervan, Forky escapes and Woody goes after him. He catches up with the gang in the next town, but before returning to the gang, Woody finds himself reunited with Bo Peep (Annie Potts), who was given up years ago, and he's introduced to new toys including Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks), Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves) and Ducky (Keegan-Michael Key) and Bunny (Jordan Peele). It's a very moving and heartwarming film, while it doesn't have the emotional gut punch the end of the third film did, it feels more like a warm epilogue, more looser but still fun with emotion and good humour. It makes up for most of Pixar's recent lacklustre sequels, and it's great to see these characters again, will it be the last time, who knows? 4.5/5

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I was really disappointed by Toy Story 4 and there was much of it I genuinely hated.

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