REVIEW: HIS DARK MATERIALS – SEASON 1

James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ruth Wilson, and Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)

Starring

Dafne Keen (Logan
Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger)
Anne-Marie Duff (Enigma)
Clarke Peters (John Wick)
James Cosmo (Game of Thrones)
Ariyon Bakare as (The Dark Knight)
Will Keen (Victor Frankenstein)
Lucian Msamati (Game of Thrones)
Gary Lewis (Outlander)
Lewin Lloyd (Judy)
Daniel Frogson (The Devil Outside)
James McAvoy (IT: Chapter 2)
Georgina Campbell (Krypton)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns)
Ruta Gedmintas (A Street Cat Named Bob)
Lia Williams (The King is Alive)
Amir Wilson (The Secret Garden)
Nina Sosanya (Love, Actually)


RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Simon Manyonda (In Fabric)
Geoff Bell (Rogue One)
Mat Fraser (American Horror Story)
Kit Connor (Rocketman)
Helen McCrory (The Queen)
Joe Tandberg (The Innocents)
Omid Djalili (The Mummy)
David Suchet (Poirot)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Cristela Alonzo (Cars 3)
Morfydd Clark (Crawl)
Raffiella Chapman (The Theory of Everything)
Andrew Scott (Spectre)

The BBC and HBO co-production of His Dark Materials got off to a strong start this fall, with an opening hour that set an epic tone and impressive visual standard for what was to follow. But the thematically-bare 2007 adaptation had those things going for it as well; the real question this new adaptation faced was whether the showrunners would finally bring the story to life with the same sense of danger, maturity, and grandiosity provided by Philip Pullman’s prose. In that respect, with some storytelling stumbles and concessions made so the story could thrive on a TV budget, the first season of His Dark Materials is largely a success.The show does a remarkable job in keeping a number of different stories moving forward simultaneously – Lyra’s central quest of rescuing her best friend Roger from the clutches of the Magisterium, Mrs. Coulter’s hunt to recover Lyra, Lord Asriel’s experiments, Lord Boreal’s world-walking machinations – the show smartly chooses how and when to highlight these various stories and by the end, weaves all those threads together into an intriguing web that we’re only just beginning to understand by the end of the first season.His Dark Materials hits the ground running by building out a rich, textured fantasy world in a relatively short amount of time. Lyra’s alternate reality of daemons, dust, aeronauts, witches, panserbjorn, and aleithiometers never comes at you too quick to understand what you’re being faced with, and some of the mysteries still surrounding the more out-there elements (like a compass that tells the truth) end up making the series all the more engrossing. His Dark Materials is content to show its hand at its own pace and that kind of confidence keeps the show worth coming back to.Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)What makes Lyra’s fantasy world work especially well is the inspired choice to pull forward story elements from the series’ second novel, The Subtle Knife. His Dark Materials makes no secret of the fact that other worlds exist in the same space at the same time, and that means that our “real world” (tragically devoid of daemons as it is) is also connected to Lyra’s. That brings us to Will Parry. The series’ second protagonist, not introduced until the Subtle Knife, is a huge presence throughout Season 1, a move that will pay dividends later on in terms of storytelling economy. Will’s struggle to maintain a home life with a mentally ill mother ends up grounding the story through its many discussions of souls and prophecies, but in a way that adds perspective to those bigger conflicts.His Dark Materials (2019)Of course, Lord Boreal’s ability to walk between Lyra and Will’s worlds and his obsession with Will’s missing father John suggest that Will may have a part to play in the show’s overarching prophecy himself. With a few of the key players all seemingly through the looking glass by the end of the season finale, how the events in each of these worlds relate to each other is one of the more exciting mysteries left to unravel as the show moves forward.His Dark Materials is certainly aimed at a more general audience than HBO’s other recently-concluded fantasy epic, but it never flinches in its bleaker moments. This is a show where children are not safe from soul-destroying kidnappers, where a person can be killed by crushing their adorable animal avatar in the palm of your hand, where a religious government can claim any violation of human decency in the service of an almighty Authority. Like the books, this show may feature kids as lead characters, but that doesn’t make the world(s) they’re moving through any less dangerous.Dafne Keen does an excellent job of rolling with the emotional ups and downs of Lyra’s journey, channeling both her good humor and her fury in equally compelling measure. Amir Wilson’s Will Parry is far more understated, a kid just trying to do the right thing and keep his family together, but given that Lyra and Will’s paths are destined to cross, these opposing personalities could provide material for some great interplay between Keen and Wilson going forward.Dafne Keen and Joe Tandberg in His Dark Materials (2019)The adult cast are fantastic foils for their younger counterparts. Ruth Wilson has the heaviest lifting to do and her intensity has kept Mrs. Coulter feeling like the most fearsome woman in any world. The hypocrisy of how Coulter treats children other than her own has made Lyra’s disgust with her all the more palpable. James McAvoy is clearly having a blast playing Lord Asriel’s righteous wrath and entitlement, and we accept his radical motivations in part because of how committed McAvoy is to making them feel real. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Lee Scoresby provides great comic relief – a smartass Texan Han Solo who genuinely respects Lyra’s spunk and cares about her safety.His Dark Materials’ first season impresses throughout with its gorgeous production design, visual effects, and music. From the scholarly warmth of Jordan College to the technicolor dreamscape of the frozen North, every locale Lyra travels to feels alive and beautifully realized. Lorne Balfe’s orchestrations give the already grand world of His Dark Materials an even more sumptuous feel, with every faction of characters getting a distinct musical voice. The all-important daemons always feel like real and present characters, as do Iorek Byrnison and the other armored bears.The daemons do, however, see His Dark Materials straining against its budget in the most obvious way. For as crucial as these second-halves are to the characters of Lyra’s world, there are times when their conspicuous absence distracts, no doubt due to the price it costs to render a VFX animal for each human in a shot. On top of that, the rules of daemons are left murky enough to be convenient to the plot when necessary (like when Lyra needs Pan to become a bird to see over a ridge), but not clear enough to help us understand why Pan couldn’t just transform into an elephant and stomp Mrs. Coulter’s creepy gold monkey to death when they fight.James McAvoy and Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)And while many of His Dark Materials’ successes come from how accurately it adapts the novels, that devotion to the text does lead to some pacing issues. The season’s penultimate episode, “The Fight to the Death,” somewhat derails the stakes after the exciting battle at Bolvangar, and the sea-faring Gyptians that aid Lyra through much of the season don’t really come into their own until episode 5, “The Lost Boy.”Dafne Keen in His Dark Materials (2019)His Dark Materials’ first season is a confident, exciting fantasy adventure, full of weighty threats to its lead characters and stakes that reverberate through its multiple worlds. Even though there are times when the scope of the story slightly exceeds the bounds of what its budget is capable of, the BBC and HBO have done an impressive job giving Lyra’s (and Will’s) adventures the adaptation they deserve.

 

REVIEW: IT – CHAPTER 2

Starring

Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year)
James McAvoy (His Dark Materials)
Jaeden Martell (The Book of Henry)
Bill Hader (Power Rangers)
Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things)
Isaiah Mustafa (Horrible Bosses)
Jay Ryan (Beauty and The Beast)
Jeremy Ray Taylor (Geostorm)
James Ransone (Empire State)
Andy Bean (Swamp Thing)
Wyatt Oleff (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Nicholas Hamilton (The Dark Tower)
Sophia Lillis (Sharp Objects)
Chosen Jacobs (Hooky)
Jack Dylan Grazer (Shazam!)
Stephen Bogaert (American Psycho)
Jess Weixler (Teeth)
Ari Cohen (Smallville)
Megan Charpentier (Resident Evil: Retribution)

Bill Hader, James McAvoy, James Ransone, Jay Ryan, Jessica Chastain, and Isaiah Mustafa in It Chapter Two (2019)In 2016 Derry, Maine, Don Hagarty witnesses his boyfriend Adrian Mellon being murdered by Pennywise after a gang of homophobic teenagers beat up and throw Adrian off a bridge while leaving the annual Derry carnival. Overhearing a police scanner, Mike Hanlon discovers It has returned and calls his childhood friends, Bill Denbrough, Ben Hanscom, Beverly Marsh, Richie Tozier, Eddie Kaspbrak, and Stanley Uris, back to Derry to honor the promise they made in 1989 to kill It if it came back. While the others travel to Derry with only hazy memories and a sense of dread, Stan slashes his wrists in the bathtub soon after getting the call. The Losers meet for dinner at a Chinese restaurant, where Mike refreshes their memories while they are tormented by hallucinations and learn of Stan’s death.Jessica Chastain in It Chapter Two (2019)Richie and Eddie decide to leave until Beverly reveals that ever since she was exposed to It’s Deadlights, she has been experiencing visions of their deaths should they fail or leave town without fulfilling their promise. Mike takes Bill to his library abode and shows him, via a drug-induced vision, that the Shokopiwah Native American tribe’s Ritual of Chüd can stop It for good. After the others agree to perform the ritual, Mike explains that the ritual requires seven personal items from their past to be sacrificed. At a baseball game, a little girl named Victoria is killed after It deceives her by saying that he can remove a birthmark from her face. Meanwhile, Henry Bowers, who survived being pushed into the well at the Neibolt house and was arrested for murdering his father in 1989, escapes from a mental institution with help from It.Bill Skarsgård in It Chapter Two (2019)Getting Stan’s shower cap in the Losers’ old clubhouse, Mike advises the others to find their artifacts by retracing their steps following their falling out after first entering the Neibolt house. Beverly finds Ben’s love letter at her old home, still believing Bill wrote it, and encounters It posing as Mrs. Kersh. Ben recalls his childhood encounter with It at high school before realizing his artifact is the yearbook page Beverly signed which he kept in his wallet. Both Richie and Eddie recall their own personal encounters with It while retrieving their artifacts: a game token from an abandoned arcade, and an inhaler. Pennywise taunts Richie about his sexuality, leading to him deciding to leave again and reconsidering again after recalling Stan’s bar mitzvah, before menacing Eddie in the guise of the Leper, but flees when Eddie standing up to It causes the being to shrink in size.Bill finds his childhood bicycle “Silver” and recovers the paper boat from the storm drain where Georgie was killed while meeting a boy named Dean, who they saw earlier at the restaurant and lives at his old house and hears voices from the shower drain. Bill regroups with the others before running off to the carnival and into a funhouse after learning It is going after Dean, only to end up watching helplessly as It kills the boy in front of him. Henry unsuccessfully attempts to murder Eddie before attacking Mike, though Richie intervenes and kills him. The Losers join a traumatized Bill at the Neibolt house, talking him out of facing It alone out of guilt.Owen Teague in It Chapter Two (2019)The group descends into a cavern beneath the sewers, Mike providing a rock from the Losers’ fight with the Bowers Gang as they perform the ritual in the remains of the meteor that brought It to Earth ages ago. The ritual appears to work in trapping the Deadlights in the sealing jar, but they escape after It emerges from the jar in a giant spider-like form. It pressures Mike into revealing that It killed those who previously performed the ritual and that Mike created the sealing jar. Mike assures the others they have a better chance in facing their fears but they accuse Mike of lying to them. It attacks the Losers and places Bill, Ben, and Beverly in nightmarish scenarios, which they escape once Bill lets go of his guilt over Georgie’s death and Beverly realizes Ben wrote the love letter, while Richie and Eddie are forced to choose from three doors.Bill Skarsgård in It Chapter Two (2019)Mike gets caught by It, but Richie manages to distract It allowing Mike to escape, getting caught in It’s Deadlights, and Eddie is fatally impaled after saving him. Eddie reveals how he made It feel small earlier, making the Losers realize they can do that by exploiting his requirement of a physical form and how they see it. They begin taunting It, showing that they are not afraid of any of It’s forms and calling the creature “just a clown.” Their plan works, with It surprisingly regressing physically and mentally into a helpless infant. Mike proceeds to rip out It’s heart so he and the Losers can crush it, finally killing It for good. Eddie dies from his injuries, and the Losers are forced to leave him behind when It’s death causes a cave-in that destroys the Neibolt house.The remaining Losers comfort Richie as he mourns for Eddie, their ordeal’s end signified by the scars on their hands disappearing. After the Losers part ways, Ben and Beverly become a couple, Richie returns to the kissing bridge where he had once carved his and Eddie’s initials, Mike decides to move out of Derry and start a new life, and Bill begins writing his new story before receiving a call from Mike as he leaves Derry, learning that Stan sent them all posthumous letters. Stan reveals in his letter that he was too scared to deal with Pennywise again and his suicide was actually a means to give his friends a fighting chance against It and asks the remaining Losers to live life to the fullest.It: Chapter Two is a great conclusion to the It duology with a final battle that goes on 15 minutes too long and some rushed scenes, but has great acting and mostly great writing, while maintaining the first movie’s strong message about friendship. It’s definitely the inferior of the two movies, but it’s still a phenomenal watch that I highly recommend.

REVIEW: ATOMIC BLONDE

CAST

Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
James McAvoy (Split)
John Goodman (10 Cloverfield Lane)
Til Schweiger (King Arthur)
Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes)
Sofia Boutella (Star Trek Beyond)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Roland Møller (Darkland)
Daniel Bernhardt (Precious Cargo)
James Faulkner (Game of Thrones)
Bill Skarsgård (It)
Sam Hargrave (The King of Fighters)

In 1989, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, MI6 agent James Gascoigne is shot and killed by KGB agent Yuri Bakhtin, who steals the List, a piece of microfilm concealed in a wristwatch that contains a list of every intelligence agent (on both sides) active in Berlin. Ten days later, Lorraine Broughton, a top-level spy for MI6, is brought in to be interrogated by MI6 executive Eric Gray and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld about her mission to Berlin.The day after Gascoigne’s death, Lorraine is dispatched to Berlin to recover the List and is told to trust no one and keep an eye out for KGB’s Satchel, a double agent who has been a stain on MI6 for years. When she arrives in Berlin, she is immediately ambushed by KGB agents who deliver her a message from KGB officer Aleksander Bremovych, but she is able to escape and meet up with her contact, David Percival. After failing to find any immediate leads, Lorraine searches Gascoigne’s apartment and discovers a picture of him and Percival. In the interrogation she tells us Percival had told her he never met Gascoigne and that she got ambushed by the West Berlin police while searching the apartment. She tells us only Percival knew she was going to the apartment, and that she suspected Percival’s motives. When Lorraine visits a restaurant she learned of from the KGB agents that greeted her when she arrived in Berlin she encounters Bremoviych but is “saved” by Delphine Lasalle, a naive French agent, and enters into a romantic relationship with her.Percival, having tailed Lorraine, is curious about a watchmaker she visited. He spots Bakhtin entering the shop. Bakhtin tells the watchmaker he has a watch full of secrets he will sell to the highest bidder. Emmett Kurzfeld meets up with Lorraine and reminds her how important it is to find the List, he hands her a newspaper. Lorraine calls a number she finds in the newspaper and is informed Satchel is compromised. Percival lures Bakthin to an alley, kills him and takes the List. When he examines the List he realizes who Satchel is. Lorraine, who does not know Percival has the List, finds out that a Stasi officer codenamed Spyglass, who gave the List to Gascoigne, memorized the List. Lorraine and Percival make plans to escort him across the border to West Berlin. Percival meets with Bremovych, who suspects Percival has the List but is offered the second best thing: information on KGB’s beloved Satchel. Lasalle photographs the meeting between Bremovych and Percival. Because Percival tips off Bremovych’s men, he and Lorraine are ambushed in East Berlin and Percival ends up shooting Spyglass because he can’t risk Lorraine, or the KGB, getting a hold of the List through Spyglass.Despite Lorraine’s best efforts Spyglass is killed. Lorraine makes it back to West Berlin and realizes Percival has planted a bug in her coat. She tells Lasalle who calls Percival and threatens him. Percival goes to Lasalle’s apartment and kills her both to hide his dirty secrets but also because he can’t be sure she’s not working with Lorraine. When Lorraine arrives too late to save her, she discovers the photographs taken by Lasalle. As Percival burns his safehouse and attempts to flee, Lorraine tracks him down, kills him, and takes the List.Returning to the MI6 debriefing, Lorraine finds out Percival had called Eric Gray and told him he had the List and that he was very close to Satchel. Upset she wasn’t told about it she then presents photographs as well as spliced audio recordings painting Percival as the double agent Satchel, and denies knowing the List’s current whereabouts, forcing the agency to close the case. Three days later, she meets with Bremovych in Paris, revealing herself to be Satchel. Bremovych tells her he knows she’s a traitor, Percival told him. Lorraine kills his henchmen, and before killing him reveals she was manipulating events from the very beginning. Later in Paris she meets with Kurzfeld, revealing herself to be an American triple agent planted by the CIA, before returning with him and the List to Langley.
Atomic Blonde is one of the coolest movies of the year. This movie was action packed the whole way through. If you are wanting a rush in the movies this is the movie for you to see.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE

CAST

Georgie Henley (Perfect Sisters)
Skandar Keynes (Ferrari)
William Moseley (The Royals)
Anna Popplewell (Reign)
Tilda Swinton (Constantine)
James McAvoy (Atonement)
Jim Broadbent (Hot Fuzz)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)
Ray Winstone (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Dawn French (Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban)
Kiran Shah (The Hobbit)
James Cosmo (Game of Thrones)
Elizabeth Hawthorne (Cleopatra 2525)
Patrick Kake (30 Days of Night)
Katrina Browne (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Sophie Winkleman (Two and A Half Men)
Rupert Everett (Shrek 2)
Michael Madsen (Species)
Stephen Ure (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Cameron Rhodes (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)

In the London suburb of Finchley, the Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy, are endangered by a Second World War attack of German bombers. They are then evacuated to the country home of Professor Digory Kirke, who is not accustomed to having children in his house, as Mrs Macready, the strict housekeeper, explains. While the Pevensies are playing hide-and-seek, Lucy discovers a wardrobe and enters a wintry fantasy world called Narnia. Seeing a lamppost, Lucy encounters the faun Mr. Tumnus, who explains the land she has entered and invites her to his home. He puts Lucy to sleep by playing a lullaby on his flute. When Lucy wakes up, she finds Tumnus grieving, and he explains that Jadis, the White Witch, has cursed Narnia and it has been winter for 100 years. If a human is encountered they are to be brought to her. Tumnus cannot bring himself to kidnap Lucy, so he sends her home. When she returns to Professor Kirke’s house, hardly any time has passed in the normal world; her siblings do not believe her story, and when they look in the wardrobe it has a normal back.Anna Popplewell in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)One night, Edmund follows Lucy into the wardrobe. He enters Narnia as well, and after searching for Lucy he meets the White Witch, who claims to be Queen of Narnia. She offers him Turkish Delight as well as the prospect of becoming king and having power over his siblings if he brings them to her castle. After she departs, Edmund and Lucy meet again and return; Lucy tells Peter and Susan what happened, but unfortunately, Edmund lies. Professor Kirke talks with Peter and Susan and suggests she is telling the truth, though they are unconvinced. While running away from Mrs Macready after accidentally breaking a window, the four siblings retreat to the wardrobe and enter Narnia. They discover Mr. Tumnus has been taken by the Witch, and meet Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, who tell them about Aslan. According to the beavers, Aslan intends to take control of Narnia from the Witch. The four must help Aslan; it has been prophesied that if two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve sit in the four thrones, the White Witch’s reign will end.
Liam Neeson and Skandar Keynes in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Edmund sneaks off to visit the Witch. When he arrives at her castle, she is angry that he did not deliver his siblings. The Witch sends wolves to hunt down the children and the beavers, who barely escape. Edmund is chained in the Witch’s dungeon, where he meets Tumnus. The Witch demands that Edmund reveal where his siblings are. After Tumnus claims that Edmund does not know anything, The Witch tells Mr. Tumnus that Edmund betrayed him, then turns Tumnus to stone.
James McAvoy in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
While Peter, Lucy, Susan and the beavers travel, they hide from what they believe to be the White Witch. It is really Father Christmas, a sign that the Witch’s reign is ending. Father Christmas gives Lucy a healing cordial, a drop of which will bring back to life anyone injured, and a dagger to defend herself. Susan receives a bow and arrows and a magical horn that will summon help when blown, and Peter a sword and shield.
Liam Neeson, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, and Georgie Henley in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
After evading wolves led by Maugrim, the group reaches Aslan’s camp. Aslan is revealed as a huge and noble lion who promises to help Edmund. Later, two wolves ambush Lucy and Susan. When Peter intervenes, Maugrim attacks him, and Peter kills him. Some of Aslan’s troops follow the other wolf to the witch’s camp and rescue Edmund. Peter is knighted by Aslan. The White Witch journeys to Aslan’s camp and claims Edmund, but Aslan secretly offers to sacrifice himself instead. That night, as Lucy and Susan covertly watch, Aslan is killed by the White Witch. In the morning he is resurrected because “there is a magic deeper still the Witch does not know”. Aslan takes Susan and Lucy to the Witch’s castle, where he frees the prisoners that the White Witch turned to stone.
William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, and Georgie Henley in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)Edmund persuades Peter to lead Aslan’s army to fight the White Witch’s forces. To stop the Witch from attacking and killing Peter, Edmund attacks the White Witch and destroys her wand, but is gravely wounded by her. As the Witch fights Peter, Aslan arrives with reinforcements and kills her. After Edmund is revived by Lucy’s cordial, the Pevensies become Kings and Queens.
James McAvoy and Georgie Henley in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)Fifteen years later, the Pevensie children have grown into young men and women. While chasing a white stag through the forest, they encounter the lamppost that Lucy saw on her first trip to Narnia. They make their way through trees, arriving in the wardrobe at the same time and day they left, becoming children again. Lucy later attempts to return to Narnia via the wardrobe, but Professor Kirke tells her he has tried for many years, and they will probably return to Narnia when they least expect to.Tilda Swinton and Skandar Keynes in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)A Fantastic adaptation, the story never ages and is a delight for all the family

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: ARTHUR CHRISTMAS

CAST

James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class)
Hugh Laurie (Tomorrowland)
Bill Nighy (Underworld)
Jim Broadbent (Cloud Atlas)
Imelda Staunton (Maleficent)
Ashley Jensen (Ugly Betty)
Marc Wootton (Nativity)
Laura Linney (The Truman Show)
Eva Longoria (Over Her Dead Body)
Ramona Marquez (Outnumbered)
Robbie Coltrane (Harry Potter)
Joan Cusack (Addams Family Values)
Rhys Darby (Yes Man)
Jane Horrocks (Little Voice)
Sanjeev Bhaskar (Notting Hill)
Iain McKee (The Parole Officer)
Andy Serkis (Lord of The Rings)
Dominic West (The Affair)

On Christmas Eve, hundreds of Christmas elves helm the command centre of Santa Claus’ mile-wide, ultra-high-tech sleigh-esque craft, the S-1. The current Santa (Malcolm) and the Christmas elves deliver presents to every child in the world using advanced equipment and military precision. These complex operations are micromanaged by thousands more elves, under the command of Malcolm’s militaristic eldest son Steve and his obsequious elfin assistant Peter at mission control underneath the North Pole. Meanwhile, his younger son – the clumsy, fearful yet enthusiastic Arthur – devotedly answers the letters to Santa. During one of the delivery operations in Germany a child wakes up and almost sees Malcolm; in the tense escape operation, a Christmas elf aboard the S-1 inadvertently leans on a button, causing a present to fall from the supply line and go unnoticed.Having completed his 70th mission, Malcolm is portrayed as far past his prime and whose role in field operations now is largely symbolic. Nonetheless, he is held in high esteem, and delivers a congratulatory speech to the enraptured elves. Malcolm announces he looks forward to his 71st, much to the frustration of heir-apparent Steve, who had prepared to succeed his father as Santa at the conclusion of this mission. During their family Christmas dinner, Arthur’s suggestion for the family to play a board game degenerates into a tense quarrel between Malcolm and Steve, while Malcolm’s father and predecessor Grandsanta, bored by retirement, resentfully criticises their over-modernization. After Grandsanta knocks the board off the table, Steve’s PDA (a high tech device named a ‘HOHO’) flashes and he leaves the table in a hurry. Later, their father shares with his wife Margaret his grave doubts about his self-identity should he retire.Arthur follows Steve, and the two learn that a Christmas elf named Bryony found the missed present – a wrapped bicycle for a little girl in England called Gwen, to whose letter Arthur had personally responded. Arthur alerts his father, who is at a loss as to how to handle the situation; Steve argues that one missed present out of billions is an acceptable error whose correction can wait a few days, citing this year’s Christmas as the most successful in history. Grandsanta on the other hand, on learning of the dire situation, proposes delivering the gift using Eve, his old wooden sleigh, and the great-great-grandchildren of the original eight reindeer, forcefully whisking away a reluctant Arthur and a stowaway Bryony. In the process the three get lost in three different continents, lose several of their reindeer, and land in danger several times, ultimately being mistaken for aliens and causing an international military incident. Through all this, Arthur eventually learns, to his compounding disappointment, that Grandsanta’s true motive is to fulfill his ego, Steve refuses to help them out of petty resentment and possibility of his brother being made hero overshadowing his work, and that his own father has gone to bed, apparently content even though a present was not delivered.Finally, stranded in Cuba after losing the sleigh and the remaining reindeer, Arthur renews his sense of purpose: that it all comes down to having presents delivered, regardless of how it is done and who did it. With Grandsanta’s and Bryony’s help, he manages to recover the sleigh. Meanwhile, the elves grow increasingly alarmed at rumours of the neglected delivery and the Clauses’ unthinkable indifference, sending them into a panic. In response, Malcolm, Margaret, and Steve take the high-tech sleigh-craft to deliver a superior present… albeit to the wrong child.Arthur and his party manage to reach England, but lose the remaining reindeer; furthermore a US Predator drone scrambled by Chief De Silva of UNFITA intercepts and opens fire on the sleigh believing them to be aliens. Grandsanta sacrifices the sleigh, while Arthur and Bryony to parachute to the ground. Ultimately with Margaret and Bryony’s help, all the male Clauses arrive at Gwen’s house before she awakens, only to have all but Arthur quarrel about who gets to actually place the gift. Noticing that only Arthur truly cares about the girl’s feelings, the elder Clauses collectively realize that he is the sole worthy successor. As a result, Malcolm gives Arthur the honour and Steve, recognizing his own shortcomings, forfeits his supposed birthright and acknowledges his brother’s worthiness to take up the mantle. In a fitting conclusion, Gwen glimpses a snow-bearded Arthur in a wind-buffeted sweater just before he vanishes up into the S-1.With the crisis resolved, Malcolm goes into a happy retirement with Margaret; he also becomes Grandsanta’s much-desired new companion and plays Arthur’s board game with him for many happy hours. Meanwhile, Steve finds true contentment as the Chief Operating Officer of the North Pole, while Bryony is promoted to Vice-President of Packing, Pacific Division. In a nod to traditionalism once neglected, the high-tech S-1 is re-christened EVIE in honour of Grandsanta’s old sleigh and refitted to be pulled by a team of five thousand reindeer – led by the original eight, all of whom managed to return home safely via innate navigational abilities. Finally, Arthur happily guides the entire enterprise in the proper spirit as the new Santa.Everything you would wish from a Chistmassy film. Strong story and lovely ideas about Father Christmas and the challenge of delivering a present to every child. A great family movie.

 

 

REVIEW: X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX

Starring

James McAvoy (Split)
Michael Fassbender (Shame)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Nicholas Hoult ((The Favourite)
Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones)
Tye Sheridan (Ready Player One)
Alexandra Shipp (Shaft)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In)
Evan Peters (Kick-Ass)
Jessica Chastain (IT: Chapter Two)
Ato Essandoh (Garden State)
Andrew Stehlin (King Kong)
Scott Shepherd (Jason Bourne)
Brian d’Arcy James (First Man)
Halston Sage (The Orville)
Lamar Johnson (Kings)
Summer Fontana (THe Originals)
Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw)

Jennifer Lawrence in Dark Phoenix (2019)In 1975, eight-year-old Jean Grey and her parents get into a car accident that kills her mother. Shortly afterward, Professor Charles Xavier takes her to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.Jessica Chastain and Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)In 1992, nine years after the worldwide chaos caused by En Sabah Nur, the X-Men are seen as heroes by the public. The President summons them for assistance during a crisis and responds to a distress signal from the space shuttle Endeavour, which is critically damaged by a solar flare-like energy during the STS-49 mission. While the X-Men save all of the astronauts, Jean is stranded and is struck by the energy which she absorbs into her body to save the X-Men’s aircraft from destruction. Jean survives the event and her psychic powers are greatly amplified as a result, but they become uncontrollable and she accidentally unleashes her power on the mutants celebrating at Xavier’s school.Jennifer Lawrence and Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)It is revealed that Xavier had placed mental walls in Jean’s mind as a little girl to protect her psychic mind from experiencing trauma. These mental walls are destroyed by Jean’s enhanced power and the trauma slowly returns, resulting in her being full of desire, rage, and pain. She then travels to her childhood hometown after finding out that her father is still alive and learned that he abandoned her. Jean recovers her complete memory of the car accident and remembers that she had inadvertently caused it rendering her mother unconscious at the wheel with her telepathy, which causes her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder. The X-Men arrive and attempt to take Jean home but she injures Quicksilver and accidentally kills Mystique before flying away.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)Jean travels to the mutant refugee island of Genosha to seek assistance from Magneto in controlling her rage, but is turned away by Erik after she engages in combat with U.S. military forces tasked with her arrest. Jean meets Vuk, the leader of a shape-shifting alien race known as the D’Bari, who explains to her that she has been possessed by a force of cosmic power which wiped out the D’Bari home planet years ago. The power had consumed all those it came across until it was drawn to Jean. Meanwhile, Hank McCoy (Beast), mad with grief by Raven’s death, allies with Erik and the mutant refugees in an attempt to kill Jean in New York City and avenge Raven.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)Upon learning of Erik’s plan, the X-Men try to stop him and his faction of mutants. As they battle, Erik manages to enter the building and confront Jean, only to fall to her amplified powers. Xavier then enters the building with Nightcrawler. Jean attacks them until Xavier convinces her to read his memories—allowing her personality to resurface. Feeling remorseful, Jean offers to let Vuk take the force from her; however, it is revealed that doing so would kill Jean, as well as revealing that Vuk also intends to use the force to conquer Earth. Xavier and Scott are able to prevent Vuk from fully absorbing the force from Jean, though Jean loses consciousness from the ordeal. Troops sent by the U.S. government, who use stun weapons and power-inhibiting collars, attack and subdue both mutant factions, who are placed on a train headed towards a containment facility.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)On the train, a remorseful Xavier admits to a seething Hank that the latter was right in his earlier accusations of violating Jean’s mind. The train is attacked by Vuk and her D’Bari forces. When the soldiers are overpowered by the shape-shifters, the mutants are freed from their restraints to combat the threat. The mutants deal with most of the D’Bari attackers, but Vuk arrives and heads for Jean, defeating each mutant who attempts to stop her. Xavier confers with Jean within his mind, allowing Jean to gain control of her power. After forgiving Xavier, Jean saves the mutants from Vuk’s attacks and the ensuing train wreck before proceeding to easily disintegrate the remaining D’Bari when they attack her. Vuk once again attempts to drain Jean of the force, but Jean takes Vuk into outer space, retakes the power that Vuk had received earlier, and then kills her. Jean then disappears in a burst of energy in the form of a phoenix.Jessica Chastain in Dark Phoenix (2019)In the aftermath of the incident, Xavier’s school is renamed the “Jean Grey School for Gifted Youngsters”, and Hank becomes their new dean with Xavier having retired after decades of fighting for mutant rights. While settling himself in Paris, Xavier is reunited with Erik and reluctantly agrees to play a game of chess with him. As they start playing, a flaming phoenix appears in the sky.Sophie Turner in Dark Phoenix (2019)This movie is NOT a masterpiece nor is it the best X-men movie,  But if all you want is a decent enjoyable theater experience where you can momentarily forget a somewhat uneventful life and focus on some effective PG-13 fantasy, then Dark Phoenix won’t be a bad recommendation

HALLOWEEN OF HORROR REVIEW: VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN

CAST

James McAvoy (Split)
Daniel Radcliffe (Horns)
Jessica Brown Findlay (Lullaby)
Andrew Scott (Sherlock)
Charles Dance (Ghostbusters)
Freddie Fox (Pride)
Mark Gatiss (Game of Thrones)
Callum Turner (Glue)
Daniel Mays (Byzantium)
Spencer Wilding (Eragon)
Bronson Webb (Pusher)

Daniel Radcliffe in Victor Frankenstein (2015)In London, ambitious medical student Victor Frankenstein attends a circus performance, where he helps save an injured aerialist, Lorelei, by aid of a nameless hunchback enslaved by the circus’ ringleader, who harbors feelings for the girl. Impressed by the hunchback’s vast knowledge of human anatomy, acquired from stolen books, Victor rescues him, drains the cyst on his back that causes his physical abnormality and gives him a harness to improve his posture – he then names him “Igor Straussman” after his roommate who is not often at home. The two then become partners in Victor’s ongoing experiments to create life through artificial means, incurring the wrath of devoutly religious police inspector Roderick Turpin, who views their experiments as sinful.James McAvoy in Victor Frankenstein (2015)When Victor shows Igor his use of electricity to animate eyes, Igor suggests he made mistakes attaching the nerves, leading Victor to ask Igor to perform the surgical parts of his experiment. Victor procures parts from dead animals and makes Igor restore the organs, which Victor secretly uses to create a monstrous chimpanzee-esque creature nicknamed “Gordon”.Igor reunites with Lorelei, now masquerading as the mistress of a closeted homosexual baron, upsetting Victor, who views Lorelei as a distraction. Igor invites Lorelei to a demonstration of their experiment, which goes awry when Gordon escapes and wreaks havoc through the university before being killed by Victor and Igor. Lorelei is horrified by Victor’s experiments and urges Igor to dissuade him from pursuing the matter further, but Igor is reluctant to do so upon learning that Victor is driven by the need to atone for his indirect role in the death of his older brother, Henry, for which Victor’s domineering father blames Victor. Victor is expelled from college for his unorthodox methods, but attracts the attention of his wealthy, arrogant classmate Finnegan, who wants him to create an artificial humanoid creature. Victor and Igor outline a behemoth named “Prometheus”, but Igor’s deepening relationship with Lorelei soon causes a rift between them.Daniel Radcliffe in Victor Frankenstein (2015)Turpin and his men raid Victor’s laboratory, hell-bent on destroying his inventions. When he attacks Victor, Turpin loses a hand and is blinded in one eye. Victor and Igor escape in a carriage sent by Finnegan and are taken to his family’s estate. Turpin is fired from Scotland Yard for not having a warrant to invade Victor’s home. Finnegan provides the scientists with the necessary funds to build Prometheus and offers them laboratory facilities at his family’s estate in Scotland. Igor is mistrustful of Finnegan and disillusioned with Victor. After a falling out, Victor departs for Scotland alone. Finnegan kidnaps and binds Igor, revealing his plans to kill Victor once Prometheus is complete and weaponize his creation. Igor is then thrown into the River Thames to drown, but manages to escape and reunites with Lorelei, who nurses him back to health.James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe in Victor Frankenstein (2015)Igor and Lorelei embark to Finnegan’s estate in order to rescue Victor. Igor finds Victor on the verge of using lightning to animate Prometheus. Victor ignores Igor’s pleas and activates the machine. A power surge overloads the machinery, killing Finnegan. During the ensuing chaos, Turpin unexpectedly arrives, blaming and threatening Victor for his creation. Prometheus suddenly steps forward. Victor is initially ecstatic that the experiment has worked, sharing a brief moment with Prometheus, thinking him to be his resurrected brother Henry. Victor quickly realizes that the experiment has failed: Prometheus has no consciousness and can not talk. The shocked Turpin opens fire on Prometheus, who goes into a rage, killing Turpin and nearly killing Victor. Disillusioned, Victor joins forces with Igor to kill Prometheus by stabbing its two hearts. After regaining consciousness the next morning, Igor reunites with Lorelei, who hands him a letter written to him by Victor, in which Victor apologizes for all the suffering he caused and recognizes Igor was his “greatest creation”. Victor retreats to the Scottish countryside in search of new discoveries.James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe in Victor Frankenstein (2015)If you are wondering what different things can they do for this very familiar story to make it worth watching – they do succeed in giving a fresh perspective – Igor’s The cast is likable and watchable. Daniel Radcliffe is a good actor and his roles since Harry Potter are actually show his range. The transformation from hunchback to Igor is quite an extreme makeover. James McAvoy is a also a very convincing actor and acts obsessed enough. Despite both actors being small sized they can pull off a big action movie. Jessica Brown Findlay of Downton Abbey is a pretty love interest (for Igor no less) and her role isn’t irritating. The first resurrected creature and organs are quite morbidly frightening for what they are. The ending is grand but kind of wonder what did Victor expect once they brought him to life? Anyway it’s not necessary to look to deep into a story like this.