November 2017~ Justice League

This film has been a long time coming!

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Following hot on the heels of this Summer’s blockbuster, Wonder Woman, Justice League is easily better than any of the previous DC films with the exception of Wonder Woman.

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This next chapter in the DCEU once again stars Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne/Batman, Henry Cavill as Clark Kent/ Superman and the ever-awesome Gal Gadot as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman. This time they are joined by Jason Momoa as Arthur Curry/Aquaman, Ezra Miller as Barry Allen/The Flash and Ray Fisher as Victor Stone/Cyborg. Back as Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler is Jeremy Irons, with Amy Adams returning as Daily Planet reporter and Superman’s love interest, Lois Lane. Connie Nielsen reprises her role as Queen Hippolyta from Wonder Woman.

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The film is an origin story for The Justice League and Cyborg, with only a snippet of information being given on the backgrounds of Aquaman and The Flash. This makes me think we will see individual films for them at some point (they may already have been announced and I’ve missed it!).

After the events of Batman Vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, Bruce Wayne has found new faith in humanity. He is also feeling a lot of deep-rooted guilt about his part in the death of Superman; a death that is being mourned worldwide. An old enemy from the past has been awakened and threatens the very existence of the human race. Inspired by Superman’s selfless sacrifice, Bruce enlists the help of Diana Prince to create league of heroes to stand against this threat. Despite encountering problems in creating his team, the newly formed Justice League (a phrase never heard in the film), it may be too late to save humanity from extinction. But there is always hope…..

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The film is much more light-hearted than previous DCEU films. It was great to see Gal Gadot reprising her role as Diana/Wonder Woman for a third time (yes, I’m a huge fan), and it’s good to see that by the end of the film, her character is finally coming out of the shadows thanks to Bruce Wayne. She is a real leader and openly interacting with the public as well as being a huge inspiration to all. We also were treated to a brief visit to Diana’s home. The paradise island of Themyscira and the Amazon warriors- I’ll write no more as it will spoil things.

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Until now, I have not been a fan of Ben Affleck as Batman, but this movie has changed that opinion. Bruce is much more reflective in this movie; he’s showing and feeling his age. 20 years of fighting crime in Gotham City and the death of Superman has taken its toll. I’m predicting he recruits another Robin at some point.

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The new characters that we were introduced to worked well on the whole. I had a bit of an issue with Aquaman seemingly liking a drink a bit too much; I like a drink, just didn’t like the way it came across. Blatantly stealing items from the Batcave in front of the team didn’t sit well either for a superhero, but on the whole he was a likeable character. It was good to see his tough facade broken down, albeit unknowingly, by Diana’s Lasso of Hestia.

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Cyborg was well portrayed as an angry, untrusting, unwilling victim of experimental medical procedures by his father. Out of all the characters, Cyborg probably has the most development over the movie. I thought he was a bit of an ass when the film first started, but that soon changed.

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Ezra Miller’s Barry Allen/The Flash was the one character I didn’t like in the trailers. It goes to show how misleading trailers can be. Yes, Barry was used a lot for comic relief, but there was so much more. The backstory with his dad, who is in prison for murder, and Barry’s mission to save him sits nicely in the background for future use I believe.

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If I had one criticism, it’s that we didn’t see enough of Mera, Aquaman’s Atlantean counterpart. What we did see of Amber Heard in the role was good, I just wish there had been more.

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It’s obvious which scenes were shot by original director, Zack Snyder and which were shot by Joss Wheedon. It doesn’t detract too much from the movie and when you think of the reason for change of director, you can understand it.

The ending was a bit rushed, but I have seen that in lots of films of late so it seems to be a trend. It did its job and told the story, so won’t mark it down too much for that.

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I would happily see this film again and can’t wait to add it to my blu-ray collection. It is definitely worth seeing on the big screen, so catch it while you can and make sure you stay for the two mid-credit scenes!

Finally, here’s a random Wonder Woman from the film. Just because I can…..

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November 2017~ The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin is a period comedy that tells the story of the aftermath of the death of Russian dictator, Joseph Stalin.

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The story begins at the studios of Radio Moscow where a Mozart concerto has just finished. Stalin calls and demands a recording which means that they have to start all over again. This opening sequence sets the scene well and shows how the Russian people were terrified of Stalin and lived in fear of his death squads. The film continues with his death and the power struggle that ensues amongst the high-ranking officials in Moscow. The story is based on true events, though those events took place over a matter of months, not days as it is in the film.

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The performances by the lead actors is what really makes the film. Adrian McLoughlin briefly plays Joseph Stalin as a bit of an east-end thug, very Kray like. Michael Palin plays Vyacheslav Molotov, a noted diplomat who comes across as a bit weak but in reality is very manipulative. Jeffrey Tambor as Malenkov, Stalin’s weak-minded deputy and successor brings an incompetence to the role that is at times cringe worthy and also hilarious. Simon Russell Beale does a stellar job as the bad guy, Lavrentiy Beria. Also making appearances are Paul Whitehouse, Paddy Considine, Dermot Crowley, Richard Brake, Andrea Riseborough and Rupert Friend.

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Two people stood out for me. Steve Buscemi as a very Americanised, Russian-Nucky Thompson Nikita Khrushchev, whilst Jason Isaacs plays General Georgy Zhukov as a brusque Yorkshireman type. Jason also had the best line in the film- “Did Coco Chanel take a shit on your head?”

If you like period comedy, or any of the actors in it, then go and see it. It’s well worth it and you’ll be laughing (sometimes inappropriately) from the outset.

Footnote: I saw the film at the Odeon Covent Garden.

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I’ve not been to this cinema since it was an ABC. It’s a great little cinema with pleasant staff. Its also one of the nicer Odeons, as some that I have been to have fallen into disrepair or have been demolished (RIP Odeon Marble Arch).

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There are a few classic posters on display as well as two quirky model hands. One belonging to Robert Carlyle and the other to Sir Michael Caine.

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I must find out more about these at some point.

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If you are in the West End and don’t want to deal with the mad crowds in Leicester Square, then take a ten-minute walk to the Odeon Covent Garden on Shaftesbury Avenue- you can’t go wrong!

November 2017~ London Film Fair

This will be a short post, just to say that the Film Fair, under its new management, seemed to run a lot smoother and was very enjoyable with a good range of dealers and guests.

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The entry prices, both standard and early bird, have decreased and they got rid of those awful screens that block out the light in the room and around the guests and dealers.

It’s almost like the old days back in the 80s once again!

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November 2017~ Netflix- Star Trek: Discovery Fan Event.

In late October, Netflix began sending out emails to Trekkies inviting them to a fan screening on Sunday 5th of November at Millbank Tower, next to the River Thames in London. I initially didn’t receive an invite, so I emailed and asked to be put on a waiting list. The following day I received my invite.

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It came with the additional information that there would also be an exhibition of props, as well as a Q & A with some of the talent- Aaron Harberts (Showrunner), Sonequa Martin-Green (Michael Burnham), Shazad Latif (Lt. Ash Tyler) and Jason Isaacs (Capt. Gabriel Lorca). We were told that doors would open at 12pm.

Knowing what Trekkies (including myself) can be like, I decided to arrive early. 9 am to be precise. Shortly after I arrived, some friends also turned up. They too were also decked out in DISCO tops, all sourced from an unofficial, popular online auction site.

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We tried to get a coffee at a nearby hotel but it was jam packed so I headed back to the front of Millbank Tower to wait for another friend. Whilst there I met up with a guy from Netflix (who I would later find out seemed to be running the whole event) and he was surprised to see us there so early. He pointed me in the right direction and told me where to wait and that he would see me at noon.

Lots of friends arrived and as time went on, the crowds grew. It wasn’t really a line at one point, more of a loose assembly, but the guy I saw earlier came out, said ‘Hi’ and had a look around. He then told someone else to sort out a line, starting with me. After that I must admit I got a bit snappy if anyone tried to jump in front of me and my friends.

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12pm came and we were let in. We all received a Netflix wristband and the first 25 of us would be allowed to meet the guests and get autographs. This was an amazing bonus!

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An express elevator ride to the 29th floor deposited us in the Altitude 360 restaurant which had been transformed into an exhibition hall. At one end we had the Captain’s chair from the USS Discovery as well as props such as phasers, Klingon blades, uniforms etc. The other end had been transformed into a room holding the spore drive and console.

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As fans we could wander round, take photos and interact with the items on display and each other, all the while enjoying the vast amount of refreshments generously laid on by Netflix.

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At about 1.15pm we were directed down to the theatre to watch the 8th episode ‘Si vis pacem, para bellum’ (If you want peace, prepare for war).

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Before the episode was shown, Jamie East (of Thronecast fame) who was presenting the show, introduced the guests. The four of them said a quick hello before settling in to watch the episode with the fans.

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Once the episode was over, a hilarious Q&A followed. There is a video somewhere which I will post later. The highlight for me, apart from hearing all the behind the scenes gossip, was Jason Isaacs getting Jonathan Riker Frakes’ name wrong! All of them were extremely humble and a joy to listen to. Jason was amazing at praising his fellow actors and the creative team. Hearing the gorgeous and very talented Sonequa tell us her own backstory for Michael Burnham was equally awesome and she brings a fresh outlook to the Trek universe. Shazad was very cagey about his character and I think there is more than meets the eye to Ash Tyler. It’s also quite clear that Aaron Harberts wants Discovery to be groundbreaking but also honour all the Trek that has gone before.

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After that, it was back upstairs for a meet and greet with autograph and selfie opportunities. It was an awesome day and I would like to thank Netflix for putting on such an amazing event!

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