2 stars

REVIEW: A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019)

Kat (Laura Marano) dreams of becoming a famous singer-songwriter but it’s hard to imagine her dreams coming true thanks to her cruel stepfamily.

Not only does Kat have to clean and tidy their home but any money she earns from her job as a singing elf at Santa Land goes straight to her stepmother Deirdra (Johannah Newmarch). While naturally the evil step sisters and stepmother act can be repetitive (and the actors perhaps overact a tad), Deirdra does say some cutting things to Kat. They strike a chord but the moment is never left to be fully impactful before there is a joke or the plot moves swiftly on.

Kat’s best friend and fellow elf Isla (Isabella Gomez) fits in the fairy Godmother role and to be honest she’s more charismatic and charming than the lead which is good for her but not for Marano. Isla really is a great friend. She’s supportive and is always willing to listen to Kat moan about her family and the two of have great chemistry. The same can’t be said for Marano and Gregg Sulkin who plays her prince Charming in this scenario, Dominic the son of a billionaire who’s working as Santa so he learns what hard work and responsibilities are. They aren’t terrible together but there isn’t some great spark either.

Going into A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish you know exactly what to expect and it certainly does hit all those Cinderella plot beats which does make it pretty predictable. There are some unbelievable moments, like how can Dominic not recognise Kat just because she’s got a pink wig and an elf hat on, but overall, it’s a pretty harmless adaptation of the well-known story. Though it is supposed to be a comedy and the jokes and slapstick humour didn’t work for me. However, it’s also a musical so there’s some cutesy pop songs about Christmas and falling in love in it too that aren’t too bad. So swings and roundabouts really. 2/5.

Part of me wonders how all the A Cinderella Story films compare to the original with Hillary Duff. I doubt any of them will be as good as the original, I do have a soft spot for it, but Christmas Wish is the fourth out of five “sequels” so there must be something to them in order for them to keep being made.

REVIEW: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is loving being Spider-Man though he does feel guilty about continuing his relationship with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone) as he feels he’ll only put her in danger. That danger soon arrives in the form of Electro (Jamie Foxx) and as Peter tries to deal with this new threat while still coming to terms with the secrets of his parent’s past, his best friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns to New York.

Watching The Amazing Spider-Man 2 now, knowing this was Andrew Garfield’s last outing at the titular character and the filmmakers/studio never brought to screen the Sinister Six they spent a chunk of this film setting up, is a very funny and kind of a sad experience.

Because by the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 you can’t help but feel it’s an extended set up for what never came. There are so many plots in this film and if a few were cut out or even shortened it might have made a more cohesive film and the plots left might’ve been more effective. In the end, there’s a lot of things that felt pointless and repetitive.

Speaking of repetitive, the on and off again romance between Peter and Gwen got old very quickly. While yes, they’re supposed to be awkward teens in love they just kept going over the same arguments about why they should or shouldn’t be together. Garfield and Stone still have great chemistry but there’s only so many times you can watch two people have the same argument or talk at cross-purposes.

Another aspect that felt pointless and dull was all the stuff about Peter’s parents – or rather his father, his poor mum certainly got shafted. There was one minor detail revealed once Peter learns more about his dad but it’s more of a “Oh that’s cool” thing rather than having any major narrative impact. Otherwise, anything to do with his dad seems to say Oscorp is bad – something which was already pretty clear from the first film. In The Amazing Spider-Man you learnt that Peter’s dad didn’t want his research getting into the wrong hands and in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it just rams that point home again.

Electro is a pretty decent villain. His looks and powers are interesting though (like another character) his decent into villainy felt far too quick, especially because of where he started. Before he got his powers, he was a nerdy guy who was a pushover and idolised Spider-Man so seeing him first of all be scared and overwhelmed by what was happening to him felt true to character. How he changed from loving Spider-Man to hating him so quickly felt more out of place.

Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man is still one of the best we’ve seen on screen. He’s confident, cracking jokes and poking fun at the bad guys, but the problem is that the attitude bleeds into his Peter Parker. While his Peter Parker is clearly more intelligent than the Maguire version (always like the scenes where Peter is doing experiments to improve his web shooters) he doesn’t seem as awkward, quiet and nerdy.

Surprisingly considering how little screentime and decent character development he had, I once again both really liked and felt sorry for Harry Osborn. Though, I probably would’ve liked his arc a lot more if it was given more time and his decent into villainy wasn’t shoehorned into the end of the film. Also, having Peter and Harry be childhood friends reconnecting is a neat way of getting him back into Peter’s life but there’s only really one scene where you see them bonding and acting like friends before Harry starts to want something from Peter. Cutting out some of the will they/won’t they stuff with Peter and Gwen to give us more scenes of Harry and Peter could’ve helped all three of those characters.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 just has too much going on and now there was never a third film in this series the flaws seem even more obvious. It’s messy when trying to juggle all these plot threads and while many of the Spidey scenes are great fun and action-packed, there’s a bit of a videogame quality to them due to the CGI.

I’ll end this on a positive, I did like the score by Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams, Mike Einziger, Junkie XL, Johnny Marr, Andrew Kawczynski and Steve Mazzaro. Electro’s theme especially was eerie with the whispers underscoring the techno and it really suited the character. 2/5.

REVIEW: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

As Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is set to be released this summer and looks pretty good, I thought I’d revisit the previous two live-action G.I. Joe films.

After their convoy was destroyed in an attempt to steal highly dangerous warheads, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) join an elite military unit comprised of special operatives known as G.I. Joe to help take down the evil organisation that’s after them.

I’ve watched G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra once before and that must be close to ten years ago as I remember recording it off the TV, so while I knew I had watched it, I really couldn’t remember much about it – besides the almost ridiculous cast. Also, I have never read a G.I. Joe comic, seen the cartoon or was even that aware of the action figures – here in the UK Action Man was the military toy I remember as a kid. So, whether or not this film is true to the characters and world of G.I. Joe I have no idea.

Let’s talk about the cast of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. There are a lot of great actors in this film though very few of them give great performances. Channing Tatum appears to be just going through the motions, and both Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols were pretty bland too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is near unrecognisable thanks to his costume and voice performance and Christopher Eccleston seems to be having a whale of a time as a Scottish weapons manufacturer with nefarious schemes. The Mummy alumni Arnold Vosloo and Brendan Fraser also make appearances, Fraser’s being very random and is more of a cameo. It’s like that all these actors don’t quite no where to hit it on the serious to fun scale of their performances so it doesn’t feel very cohesive. Plus, a lot of the characters get little to no backstory or characterisation besides stereotypes like “brash leader” or “tech guy” so it’s hard to get attached to any of them.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra has a lot of CGI-heavy action sequences and makes full use of the budget to show secret bases under the Sahara Desert and the polar ice caps. Some CGI shots look a bit ropey, mostly from the chase sequence in Paris, but on the whole it still looks decent if excessive – that underwater base with the submarine dogfights truly is something.

While the abundance of CGI and explosions gets old quickly, the sword fights between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) stand out. The stunt work is great and while many of the other characters just seem to have super suits or big guns, these two actually have skills and with their backstories entwined, anytime they go toe to toe is a highlight in an otherwise bland action film.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is very silly and mindless. As so many of the characters lack interesting or any characterisation, they aren’t memorable. The only two that aren’t so easily forgotten are Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and part of that is due to the distinctive costuming. Otherwise, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is pretty forgettable and even as you watch it it’s easy to get bored. 2/5.

REVIEW: Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021)

Bodyguard Michael Bryce (Ryan Reynolds) is trying to put his life together when Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) arrives guns blazing, saying her husband hitman Darius (Samuel L. Jackson) has been kidnapped by the Mafia and she needs Michael’s help to get him back. Naturally, chaos ensues.

I very much enjoyed The Hitman’s Bodyguard so I was looking forward to the sequel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t reach the heights of its predecessor. They’re both loud and brash and stupid but the sequel just isn’t as funny (maybe it was the unexpectedness of the first one that worked more) and it mistakes over use of vulgarity for humour and that gets old quickly.

Let’s talk about the trio of leads. Ryan Reynolds’ Michael Bryce is that quintessential Ryan Reynolds character and boy does he get beat up in this movie. While it is an action comedy and violence/injury is often used for laughs, it gets to a point where this man should not be able to stand let alone run, fight and shoot bad guys. Samuel L. Jackson’s Kincaid is the act-first-think-later kind of guy and while he is impulsive and violent it turns out, he’s nothing compared to his wife. Salma Hayek gets a lot more to do as unhinged con artist Sonia. Practically every other word out of Sonia’s mouth is an insult or a swear word and while how she clashes with Michael is amusing to begin with, it soon becomes repetitive and almost grating. She is far more of a loose cannon than her husband though and the dynamic between them and Michael is one of the things going for this film.

Antonio Banderas plays the big bad villain and the gaudy costumes and makeup he has makes him appear like a knock-off Bond villain. That’s not entirely an insult as he makes it work for the most part and it suits the unrealistic nature of Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard. Frank Grillo is also in this and as someone who likes Frank Grillo it’s always nice to see him pop up in films but his character is pretty nothingy and anyone could’ve been in that role and it wouldn’t have changed anything.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard just doesn’t know when to let moments rest. While it is an action/comedy there are a few dramatic moments that could’ve been affecting if they’d left the comedy alone for a moment to let the scene and actor’s performances breathe. Also, the editing in the vast majority of the action sequences is incredibly quick and it can be hard to follow what’s going on, especially in car chase sequences.

Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard has mindless action and violence and the comedy just doesn’t land – I think I smiled a couple of times and maybe chuckled once. A lot of the attempts at humour is derived from the same things, Ryan Reynold’s being long-suffering, Salma Hayek being crude and unpredictable, and Samuel L. Jackson being violent, it gets predictable and boring fairly quickly. 2/5.

Possibly a lot of the same criticisms can be levelled at the first film, but for some reason that one worked for me, and even held up upon rewatch. If anything, I think that I’d like Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard even less a second time around.

REVIEW: Army of the Dead (2021)

Mercenary Scott Ward (Dave Bautista) is approached by businessman Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to put together a team to go into Las Vegas to steal $200 million from a safe beneath the Strip. The only problem is Las Vegas is walled off from the rest of the world and is overrun by zombies – some of which appear to be a lot smarter and faster than you’d think.

At almost two and a half hours long, Army of the Dead is a film where you feel that run time. There are entertaining sequences but there’s more lulls than not and there are certainly portions of the film which drag. The fact that this crew of people don’t get into Las Vegas into almost an hour into the film is telling. There’s a fair few characters to recruit but it takes so long and never uses any of the typical narrative choices from the heist genre to do so so it’s interesting. Not to compare a zombie heist film to Ocean’s Eleven but that film shows how you can quickly get what the key skills an personality quirks of characters in quick succession and how they’ll fit in the team. And to be honest, while Army of the Dead is pitched as a zombie heist movie and though there are certainly a lot of zombies, the heisting is actually quite minimal. There’s really only Dieter (Matthias Schweighöfer) who’s the safe cracker, everyone else is former military or gang members who can handle themselves in a shootout. Though an argument can be made for Peters the helicopter pilot (Tig Notaro) having the getaway driver role.

Naturally being a zombie film and having about a dozen characters in this band of thieves, there’s going to be some casualties and potentially a lot of death but there was far more than I was expecting leading to a very bleak viewing experience. Plus, so many of the characters get little to no development and many don’t seem to have strong ties to one another that the vast majority of deaths have no impact. Dieter and Peters had key roles to play in the plan, so the threat of their death means something but with everyone else it just let like they were there to be zombie fodder.

What I presume is supposed to be the emotional core of this film is the relationship between Scott and his daughter Kate (Ella Purnell), a volunteer at the camps outside Las Vegas who joins her father and his team on their mission though she has her own reasons for going. I say presume as it really didn’t do anything for me. Bautista and Purnell are both fine in their roles but it’s the dialogue and story that surrounds them that doesn’t work. It was also very difficult to care about Kate when her actions were often infuriating. Personally, I was more interested in the dynamic between Dieter and Vanderohe (Omari Hardwick), one of the former-military guys, as small interactions between them actually built the foundations of a relationship, something that none of the other characters had. More often than not you were told why these characters liked or cared about one another than were shown it.

One thing Army of the Dead has going for it are the zombies themselves. These creatures are fast and intelligent and there’s interesting power dynamics in play with them. Plus, the way these zombies move and the sounds they make is very unsettling. There’s a sequence with a room full of hibernating zombies that is very suspenseful, though character decisions after it are very annoying.

I’ve realised that there’s more negative here than positive but that’s what’s sticking out to me about Army of the Dead. There are fun moments like Dave Bautista jumping from car table to card table while money rains down, guns fire and zombies attack, but those are few and far between. It’s hard to care about the characters when they make so many bad decisions and seem to be bad at the jobs e.g. former-military people not doing basic things like watching each other’s backs so they don’t get bitten by zombies. The heist element is minimal and while the zombie element is good, it’s hard to care about it when the story is pretty dull. 2/5.

Honestly I think I’ve given Army of the Dead two stars instead of one because of how well Tig Notaro was added into the film (she shot all her scenes on greenscreen as she replaced an actor who was fired during post-production) and because her character was fun and weird. Something the rest of the film was lacking.

REVIEW: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

My original X-Men: Apocalypse review from when it was first released.

Ten years after the Washington incident, mutants are known to the world. When En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), who is believed to be the world’s first mutant, resurfaces Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and his X-Men must unite to save the world from destruction.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about X-Men: Apocalypse. I feel like it’s the epitome of a mixed bag. There are some things I really liked but there are a lot that I really didn’t. Let’s start with the good.

The crop of new characters (or younger versions of characters we already know) are fun and it’s nice to see their dynamics. There are hints of the extent of Jean’s (Sophie Turner) powers and a young Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan) is suitable bashful and cocky as he tries to come to terms with his new powers. Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is some comedic relief but the full extent of how visually impressive his powers are (as seen in X2) is never truly realised and he’s used to just ferry around people to move the plot along.

Evan Peters returns as Peter Maximoff and while how his parentage is revealed (or not) is very annoying, Peter as a character is one of the best things in this film. He’s so much fun and brightens every scene he’s in. There’s once again a sequence that shows his powers to their fullest and it’s got another great song accompanying it. Honestly, this film would’ve been over at the halfway point if Peter hadn’t shown up.

Now for the not so good. Michael Fassbender returns as Magneto and his performance is still great and is still one of the best casting decisions in this franchise. However, the decision to have Magneto destroy Auschwitz seems insensitive at best and that scene is just uncomfortable to watch. Having four costumed superpowered people just standing in there seemed weird to begin with and while mutants are an allegory for minority groups and Magneto is Jewish it just seems like a sequence that shouldn’t have gotten past the script drafting stages.

En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse is such a bland and generic villain. He’s big on the monologues and he’s not particularly intimidating either. Oscar Isaac is wasted in the role and to be honest anyone could have been under all those prosthetics and make up and the performance would have hardly changed.

There’s a whole segment where Colonel William Stryker (Josh Helman) makes an appearance and captures some of our heroes that feels out of place when you think about it too much. It’s really just there to give Jean, Scott and Nightcrawler something to do and to facilitate a big cameo. The reasons why Stryker has taken them are paper thin and it does just seem like a way for the heroes to get a plane and some cool battle suits. There could have been another way to achieve those things and shave twenty minutes off the films runtime while doing so.

X-Men: Apocalypse is a bit of a mess really. The final battle is exciting, the ways various characters fight one another with their powers is always cool to watch, and the film does end on a good note with the formation of the X-Men, but the dialogue is often terrible and anything but subtle, and with a one-dimensional villain it feels like the threat to the world is there just because the characters told you it is. 2/5.

REVIEW: Deadpool (2016)

My original Deadpool review from when it was first released.

After experimental cancer treatment left ex-mercenary Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) with full-body scarring and accelerated healing, he sets out to find Ajax (Ed Skrein), the man responsible.

Yes, I decided to include the Deadpool films in my big X-Men rewatch as they are technically part of the same universe. This is also one of the films that I haven’t seen since the cinema five years ago, so I was interested to see if it held up.

In short no. While there were some chuckles and smiles there wasn’t the full belly laughs I remember it giving me in the cinema. I think this is a problem for comedies in general. My enjoyment of them can vastly depend on where (and who with) I watch them if the comedy is mediocre. With Deadpool five years ago, it was a surprise. The referential humour, the fourth wall breaks, and gracious violence wasn’t something we’d seen before in a superhero movie so that combined with seeing it in a packed cinema with friends probably made a lot of the films feel funnier than it was. Now having also seen Deadpool 2 and being five years older, once you’ve had thirty minutes of the references and violence you know exactly what Deadpool as a film is doing so there isn’t the surprise factor and not as many jokes land as you thought.

That being said, while the comedy element of Deadpool doesn’t always work as well on rewatch the action still holds up. The opening fight sequence as Wade literally drops into a motorcade and proceeds to maim and/or kill everyone in the vehicle is well shot and easy to follow even with the added crotch shots. Likewise having Wade only having a set number of bullets in the freeway shoot out makes his kills more innovative.

Deadpool works as a story because the action and motive are all small scale and personal – especially compared to a lot of the other superhero films released then and since. Deadpool is a revenge story bookended by a love story. Wade is in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) so in order to have a life with her, he submits himself for the experimental treatment. Then it’s a revenge story after what the treatment does to him which then turns back into a love story as Wade has to go rescue Vanessa from the bad guys. There is CGI in Deadpool and the final battle in an old shipping yard doesn’t look quite as good as some of the previous sequences but on the whole the action is bloody and brutal and with Wade cracking jokes all the time it’s often funny too.

Speaking of CGI there is the proclaimed CGI Character with Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic) one of the two X-Men featured in Deadpool who is more of a pacifist and keeps trying to convince Wade to stop killing people and join them. The other is Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), a moody teen who makes fun of Wade and doesn’t say a lot. Personally, Wade’s referential jokes about the X-Men movies and actors were my favourite because it really is so hard to keep track of these films’ timelines.

All in all, Deadpool is a bit funny with decent action and a tight story. The fact that it is still so different to the majority of superhero movies today does stand in its favour and maybe one day studios (namely Disney as they now own everything Marvel) will put out the odd film that doesn’t follow the usual narrative and ratings they’ve gone for so far. Though to be honest those films make them a lot of money so in their mind they’re probably like “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 2/5.

REVIEW: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

My review of the 2017 theatrical version of Justice League.

Determined to ensure Superman’s (Henry Cavill) ultimate sacrifice was not in vain, Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) aligns forces with Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) with plans to recruit a team of metahumans to protect the world from an approaching threat of catastrophic proportions led by Steppenwolf (Ciarán Hinds).

The trials and tribulations of this film, or this version of this film, are pretty well known and now thanks to HBO Max Zack Snyder has been able to release the version of Justice League that was his ideal vision to release back in 2017 – all four hours of it.

It’s difficult to watch Zack Snyder’s Justice League and not compare it to the film that was released in cinemas in 2017. There are scenes that are exactly the same or similar but extended but then there’s also a whole lot of new footage and backstory on different characters. Much like the 2017 version, I think Zack Snyder’s Justice League is mostly fine, it’s still messy but it is a bit more coherent and thematically consistent. It’s just that if you’re not keen on how Snyder represents these characters, making them more like God-like warriors than superheroes, then you’ll probably not be too over keen on this film.

Cyborg (Ray Fisher) gets the most out of this new version. As a character he gets so much more to do, more character development and he does kind of become the heart and driving force of this team of heroes. Fisher’s performance isn’t always great, but his character goes from being an almost non-entity to the glue that holds this team together – and his relationship with his father Silas Stone (Joe Morton) is a big subplot of the film.

Steppenwolf is given more of a backstory too so becomes a bit more than a generic villain who wants to destroy the world. The CGI with all the spikes in his suit makes him appear more menacing and with the extra blood and violence he does seem like a sizable threat.

The four-hour runtime of Zack Snyder’s Justice League is a bit intimidating, and you do feel it at times. Slow-motion shots are a big part of Snyder’s directing style and there’s a lot in here. In fact, the use of them is excessive as shots that look cool in a trailer (Jason Momoa’s Aquaman standing in the waves) last for minutes as you have to see them in slow-mo and from every angle, and then there’s sequences like a football game that’s also in slow-mo which seems pointless. These shots may look cool, but having so much slow-motion shots used, all the time no matter the context of the scene, makes them lose their impact when they’re used in a big action sequences.

I think that’s a good way to sum up Zack Snyder’s Justice League. A lot of the time it looks cool but those visual, stylistic choices don’t necessarily make a good film. With it’s four-hour runtime there’s a lot of exposition and action and some it works while some of it doesn’t. More padding around the plot makes it a more consistent film than the one released in 2017, but I see little reason for it to be four hours. There’s probably a really good two-and-a-half to three-hour Justice League movie in here.

If you had problems with the 2017 film, you may like this version more. If you liked the 2017 version, there may be some stuff to like here but there’s not as much slapstick comedy for instance. Zack Snyder’s Justice League is long, often dour but frequently visually interesting. There are a few nice character moments (how the dynamic between Wonder Woman and Aquaman is briefly explored is one of my favourite moments) but then other characters are pushed aside (Amy Adams’ Lois Lane). It’s the balance between character and action and pacing that’s lacking and often makes Zack Snyder’s Justice League a bit of a slog but the film does just enough to keep you watching – if only out of morbid curiosity. 2/5.

If you want to hear my spoiler-filled thoughts on this film, I featured on JumpCast’s Zack Snyder’s Justice League episode that was released today.

REVIEW: Dune (1984)

After his family is attacked and betrayed on the planet Arrakis, Paul Atreides (Kyle MacLachlan), leads desert warriors against the galactic emperor and his father’s nemesis Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan) to get revenge and to free their desert world from the emperor’s rule.

With the newest adaptation of the novel set to be released towards the end of this year (hopefully), I thought it’d be a good idea to see what David Lynch’s adaptation was like since I’d generally heard bad things about it. I read Dune a couple of years ago and as I was reading it I thought it’s a difficult story to retell in film as there’s so much politics, world building and character backstories to fit in in order to make the story make sense and to be compelling.

Dune tries to fill in the gaps of the viewers knowledge by having a narration setting up what Spice is – the much sought-after substance that is in time travel technology – and the prophesy. That’s shortly followed by a computer talking about the main planets and who rules each one. This sort of setup makes sense. It’s how there’s so much voice over of various characters thoughts throughout the film that gets grating. It fails to show and instead has all the characters telling (or thinking) their thoughts about what’s going on and what things mean. Some of the thoughts could’ve been said out loud, whether as a rhetorical question or explanation to themselves, or even as a question to people around them.

The cast of Dune is a real eclectic mix. A lot of people’s performances seem either wooden or too over the top. In some ways that almost suits the film as it’s so odd that it’s like it’s not sure what it’s trying to be anyway. Patrick Stewart is Gurney Halleck, Paul’s weapons and combat teacher, and I wasn’t expecting to see him in this film – especially carrying a pug into battle. The inclusion of dogs in this fantasy science-fiction adventure was a weird thing anyway. Sting plays Feyd Rautha, a ruthless enemy of Paul’s, and while he looks pretty cool in the costume and his electrified hair, he really can’t act. Kyle MacLachlan does a good job as Paul, balancing the vulnerability of the character with how resourceful he is. He is older (and looks it) than Paul in the book as there he was a teenager but whether it’s the floppy hair or his performance, he does come across more youthful than he is.

The set design and costumes were all interesting, the set design especially was quite unique, and while a lot of the special effects don’t hold up (I’m not sure if they would’ve been considered good in the 80s) the practical effects like a large alien creature in a moving tank were still impressive. The score, which is by Toto of all people, is actually one of the highlights of the film. There’s haunting tracks and more tense music, even when the action on screen isn’t that exciting, the music does a good job making you think it is.

Overall while it might have interesting elements to it, Dune isn’t a particularly interesting or compelling film. The plot moves so slowly and because there’s so many characters it’s hard to keep track of who’s who or for them to have decent character development. The action sequences are pretty generic, a load of explosions and people shooting from a distance. There’s not really any hand-to-hand combat and when there is, characters have these blocky CG shields that make the fight almost impossible to see.

Dune really is an interesting mess of a film. I feel like anyone adapting this story is fighting an uphill battle as there’s so much needed to make the story understandable, and to make the story exciting as the book itself was a bit dry in my opinion. A lot of the sci-fi elements of Dune do look cool, but that doesn’t make the film an entertaining watch. 2/5.

REVIEW: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994)

When the brilliant but unorthodox Victor Frankenstein (Kenneth Branagh) creates life, it is far more powerful and gruesome than he imagined. After its creator turns his back on him, the Creature (Robert De Niro) escapes and swears revenge.

Much like the Dracula story, the tale of Frankenstein is one I know thanks to popular culture as I had not read the original book. While I knew how Dr Frankenstein reanimated the dead and it all went very wrong, the stuff about Frankenstein’s family, his upbringing, the intricacies to do with his experiments and the Creature was completely new to me.

Have to say I was rather surprised the film started with a crew of explorers running into an iceberg and their ship getting stuck on the ice. I did not know that was a part of the Frankenstein story at all. Still, it’s an eerie opening as there’s the threat of the elements the crew have to deal with before there’s weird noises and a strange figure appearing out of the snow.

As well as having the titular role, Kenneth Branagh also directed this film. His style is all over this with close ups of actors faces, spinning shots and dramatic zooming. The sets and costumes are lush and the house Frankenstein grows up in is suitably eerie when it needs to be thanks to the lighting choices.

Along with his over the top filming techniques, Branagh also gives some over the top acting. He says pretty much all of his lines with so much passion, even when a quieter reaction would better suit what’s happening. Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter’s chemistry is a bit hit and miss and her performance is just as grand.

Robert De Niro as the Creature is unrecognisable. The make up and prosthetics that bring that character to life are incredible and deserve that Oscar nomination. De Niro does well to portray the Creature in a sympathetic light as he is shunned by society and slowly tries to understand people and where he could possible fit with them.

The problem with Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is that a lot of the time is spent waiting for something to happen. Especially when you know the basics of the story, you’re waiting for the monster to be created and then you’re waiting for everything to go wrong. The stuff with Victor and his friends and family just isn’t that interesting unfortunately.

All in all I think Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein could make a good double feature with Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Both are classic stories, with gorgeous sets and costumes and both are very dramatic and over the top. Unfortunately for Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the exaggerated filming techniques and performances don’t work in its favour and it mostly ends up as a bit of slog to get through. 2/5.