Category Archives: Movies

Early Man

Early Man is a 2018 British stop-motion animated historical sports comedy film directed by Nick Park, written by Mark Burton and James Higginson, and starring the voices of Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston, Maisie Williams, and Timothy Spall.

The film follows a tribe of primitive Stone Age valley dwellers who have to defend their land from bronze-using invaders in an association football match.

Not quite as good as ‘Chicken Run’ or ‘Curse of the Were-Rabbit’, this still a funny and enjoyable romp through pre-history.

There are a lot of things that are historically inaccurate. But it doesn’t really matter as the characters resonate and are engaging.

The history of ball sports extends across countless cultures throughout recorded history. Solid archaeological records of ball sports extend back as early as 1600 BC – for example, discoveries of rubber balls used in the ancient sports like the Mesoamerican ball game. However, with the phrase “ball sports” being so broad and inclusive, games that could fall under this category have undoubtedly been played for millennia even before that time.



Annihilation is a 2018 US/UK psychological science fiction horror film, written and directed by Alex Garland, and based on the novel of the same name by Jeff VanderMeer.

The film stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, and Oscar Isaac, and follows a group of military scientists who enter “The Shimmer”, a mysterious quarantined zone full of mutating landscapes and creatures.

I had a go at reading the book as it was a Sword & Laser pick in  January 2015. I didn’t get far and gave up.

The movie is notable as being one of the first Netflix movies and the first streaming movie review by  Mark Kermode on his film review show.

The movie is a slow moving and dream-like. It’s more horror than science fiction. While there is a sense of realism in the science, it does descent into strangeness at the end.

Initially I saw it on TV, but gave up halfway through. As netflix saves the last position, I could come back the next day and finish it on my PC.

Not a genre I like, so I’m not as enthusiastic about it as Mark Kermode was. (3/5).




Ready Player 1


Ready Player One is a 2018 American science fiction adventure film, produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, and written by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline, based on Cline’s 2011 novel of the same name. The film stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J. Miller, Simon Pegg, and Mark Rylance.

The film is set in the year 2045, when much of humanity, escaping the desolation of the real-world, uses the virtual reality software OASIS to engage in work and play. Wade Watts (Sheridan) discovers clues to a hidden game within the program that promises the winner full ownership of the OASIS, and joins several allies to try to complete the game before indentured players working for a large company, run by Nolan Sorrento (Mendelsohn), can do so.

I read the book back in 2011, so after seven years there isn’t much of the original book I remember. But I would see this before reading reviews. Firstly, there is a lot of eye candy. And despite being 2:20hrs long, it had good pacing.

The first third of the movie is dominated by popcorn CGI of the Oasis and it’s difficult to sympathize with the characters. It isn’t until the last third that the  characters work and the drama pulls you in.


Wind Rising

The Wind Rises

The Wind Rises is a 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, animated by Studio Ghibli.

The Wind Rises is a fictionalized biopic of Jiro Horikoshi (1903–1982), designer of the Mitsubishi A5M fighter aircraft and its successor, the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, used by the Empire of Japan during World War II. The film is adapted from Miyazaki’s manga of the same name, which was in turn loosely based on both the 1937 novel The Wind Has Risen by Tatsuo Hori and the life of Jiro Horikoshi.

The Wind Rises was the highest-grossing Japanese film in Japan in 2013. It won and was nominated for several awards, including nominations for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

While beautiful to look at (even the images of war have an engaging style) this is does not have the same emotional intensity of previous Miyazaki films I have seen: ‘When Marnie Was There’ and ‘Princess Kuguya’. It’s a straight forward telling of Jiro’s story, interspersed with dream sequences featuring innovative aircraft designs.

After watching, you have to remind yourself that these were devices for destruction. The result is that the film’s theme is one of the creative impulses, even in times of war.



Pacific Rim Uprising

is a 2018 American science fiction film directed by Steven S. DeKnight (in his feature-film directorial debut) and written by DeKnight, Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, and T.S. Nowlin. It is the sequel to the 2013 film Pacific Rim, with Guillermo del Toro, director of the original, serving as a producer here.

The sequel stars John Boyega (making his producer debut) as well as Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Jing Tian, Adria Arjona, and Zhang Jin, with Rinko Kikuchi, Charlie Day, and Burn Gorman returning from the original film.

Set in the year 2030, the plot follows humanity needing to again fight Kaiju, giant monsters set on destroying the world.

Big bangs and crash-whollup.  Its big machines hitting each other and monsters from another dimension. Enjoyable while it lasted, but very forgettable.


Stalin’s Dead

The Death of Stalin is a 2017 political satire comedy film.
It stars Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Paddy Considine, Rupert Friend, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin, Andrea Riseborough and Jeffrey Tambor.

Based on the French graphic novel La mort de Staline, the film depicts the Soviet power struggles following the death of dictator Joseph Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) in 1953.

Mainly went to see this because it was directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci, who made ‘The Thick of It’ and the USA version, Veep.

It feels like a toned down version of his TV series. There is less foul language. Some of it was a bit difficult to follow, but the humour in the situations were apparent and overall would give it a 3/5.


Black Panther

Black Panther is a 2018 American superhero film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, it is the eighteenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

The film is directed by Ryan Coogler from a screenplay by him and Joe Robert Cole, and stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther, alongside Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, Daniel Kaluuya, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, and Andy Serkis.

In Black Panther, T’Challa returns home as king of Wakanda but finds his sovereignty challenged by a long-time adversary in a conflict that has global consequences.

Currently at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, this is getting high praise. It’s easy to see why. Great visuals and sound, as expected. The story is about two characters and their conflict over the future for their country. Notable for being almost entirely a black cast, with the exception of Martin Freeman  and Andy Serkis. Freeman is an unlikely CIA agent and Serkis just gets to be cool and bad.

There is a good amount of humour throughout that lightens the tone. Some very good fight sequences, but rather obvious character CGI effects.

Also of note is the even balance between the influence of male and female characters, especially  in the second half.

Ultimately it’s a popcorn movie. It could have been more interesting with a different and more challenging ending.


Z for Zachariah
by Robert C. O’Brien (1974)

Z for Zachariah is a post-apocalyptic science-fiction novel that was published posthumously in 1974. The name Robert C. O’Brien was the pen name used by Robert Leslie Conly.
Set in the United States, the story is in the form of a diary written from the first-person perspective of sixteen-year-old Ann Burden, who has survived a nuclear war and nerve gas through living in a small valley with a self-contained weather system.

I’m sure I owned this book as a teenager, however I have no memory of reading it. In 2015 a film of the book was made.


Margot Robbie is currently up for an Academy Award as Tonya Harding in the film I, Tonya.  Chiwetel looked familiar. He was in ‘Doctor Strange’ (2016) and ‘The Martian’ (2015).

The film has lots of differences from the book. The main protagonist, Ann is 16 in the book and  about 10 years older in the film (Robbie would have been 23). The book has only two characters, the film three and judging from the description the book was much darker.

Shot at Port Levy, Pine was arrested by police near Methven after failing to pass a routine roadside breath alcohol test. He pleaded guilty to drunk driving on March 17 2014, stating that he drank four vodkas at a local pub.

The movie received generally positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 80% score based on 81 reviews. However low ratings in the USA meant it went straight to DVD and not to NZ cinemas.

It’s easy to see why. Despite being labelled as a Sci-Fi films, the only Sci-Fi element is the post-apocalyptic setting. It’s really about what happens when a girl, living on her own meets and lives with two men when they turn up in her valley. It’s slow moving and forgettable.



Coco is a 2017 American 3D computer-animated musical fantasy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. Based on an original idea by Lee Unkrich, it is directed by Unkrich and co-directed by Adrian Molina.

The story follows a 12-year-old boy named Miguel Rivera who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead, where he seeks the help of his deceased musician great-great-grandfather to return him to his family among the living.

Based around the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday. A young boy (Miguel) wants to become a musician like his ancestor Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular actor and singer. Somehow Miguel moves into the land of the dead and he seeks out Ernesto to help get him back.

The design is bright and vibrant, with lots of eye candy and a sprinkling of action. The characters are all engaging enough, but it’s the plot really draws you in and provides the emotional resonance that  delivers an emotional ending.

Rating – 5/5

The first best movie of 2018.

3 Bills

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

A 2017 drama film written, co-produced, and directed by Martin McDonagh. It stars Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson, and Sam Rockwell. McDormand plays a mother who rents three billboards to call attention to her daughter’s unsolved murder.

It’s easy to see why this film has critical appeal. It’s a dark and twisting tale of what happens when a bereaving  mother takes matters into her own hands. It may be labelled ‘black comedy’, but there isn’t anything to laugh at here. It’s more like a morality story.

As the 19 year of love interest of McDormand’s ex husband says.. Anger Begets Anger.

The film is currently at the Oscars for Best Picture, Lead Actress and Supporting Actor (Harrelson & Rockwell) and original screenplay.