Wednesday, 22 March 2017

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 23rd March 2017.

With the release of the next Disney animated classic in full live action mode this week - see my Preview of 'Beauty and the Beast' below, it is no wonder this Production Company has a strategy in mind given the pay dirt they have hit since embarking on this renewed focus. Following hot on the heels of the other classic animated features given the live action or full CGI makeover, that were Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland' in 2010 taking US$1.03B; 'Maleficent' in 2014 which took US$786M; Kenneth Branagh's 'Cinderella' in 2015 which grossed US$544M and last years 'The Jungle Book' Directed by Jon Favreau with receipts of US$967M, it is hardly surprising that Disney is green lighting its animated classics for the live action treatment. 'Mulan' is up next in November 2018.

Upcoming from Disney over the next several years, we can expect to see, 'The Lion King' which has been announced with Jon Favreau Directing given his success as mentioned previously, although a release date is unknown. Favreau is also Directing 'The Jungle Book 2' to follow on from last years success. Tim Burton is said to be Directing a live action version of the 1941 classic 'Dumbo', and Guy Ritchie is rumoured to be Directing 'Aladdin'. Angelina Jolie will reprise her 'Maleficent' role in a sequel, Reece Witherspoon is attached to 'Tink' as 'Tinkerbell', a spin off from the world of 'Peter Pan' and David Lowry who Directed 'Pete's Dragon' is attached to 'Peter Pan' on Directorial duties. Emma Stone is set to play Cruella De Vil in an origin story spin off from the 1961 animated film and the 1996 live action '101 Dalmatian's'. Others on the slate to get the full live action/CGI treatment include 'Pinocchio', 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' it's first full length animated feature film, 'The Little Mermaid', 'The Sword in the Stone', 'Winnie the Pooh', and the follow-up from the 1964 'Mary Poppins' film, 'Mary Poppins Returns' with Emily Blunt playing Poppins, is scheduled for a Christmas release 2018.

This week there are four new film offerings to tempt and tease you out to your local multiplex or independent theatre. We kick off with a much loved and hugely successful Disney animated classic getting the full 21st Century live action makeover. We then move to an outer space alien horror story involving a quickly evolving Martian life form, an International Space Station, the six man crew and the fate of our fragile little green planet. We then have the launch of a possible new Superhero franchise that is not of the Marvel or DC kind, but will be known to many of us as an existing popular long running television series that sees five unsuspecting teenagers brought together to save the world with their particular set of skills, and their brightly coloured threads! Wrapping up we have a young childhood based animated feature from those people at DreamWorks that sees a baby taking charge on the home front to reunite a family and thwart a potentially epic struggle involving a manipulative company CEO.

When you have fulfilled your opportunity to watch a film of choice in the week ahead, from any one of those Previewed below, or as Reviewed and Previewed in previous Blog posts, be sure to drop us a line detailing your relevant, constructive and unbiased opinions. Simply leave your views in the Comments section below this or any other Post - we'd love to hear from you! In the meantime, enjoy your movie.

'BEAUTY AND THE BEAST' (Rated PG) - this Walt Disney Pictures latest live action release of its much loved animated film of the same name from 1991, spawned a whole industry in itself in the wake of its release. The original animated feature which picked up multiple awards and nominations including two Academy Awards, three Golden Globes and five Grammy Awards and took US$425M at the Box Office, gave rise to three straight to video sequels, a television series which ran for 65 episodes, and a hugely successful Broadway musical which toured through thirteen countries and took US$1.4B between its release in 1994 and when the curtain finally came down in 2007. There has also been a bunch of video games over the years.

Directed by Bill Condon and with an ensemble cast that features Emma Watson as Belle an avid bookworm, who's independent and a beautiful young woman, and Dan Stevens as The Prince/Beast, an egotistical handsome prince who is cursed into a reclusive bestial creature by The Enchantress as punishment for his arrogance. The story, which you'll know already, features Belle who is taken prisoner by the fearsome Beast in his enchanted castle. There, she learns that the castle's residents were once humans and are cursed into their current states as household objects. Belle also tries to evade a fiendish former soldier-turned hunter, Gaston (Luke Evans) who seeks to have Belle as his trophy wife. Despite her fears, she soon becomes friends with the castle's welcoming enchanted staff and learns to look deeper beyond the beast's ugly exterior, allowing her to see the kind heart and soul of the true prince on the inside. Also starring Kevin Kline, Ewen McGregor, Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Josh Gad and Gugu Mbatha-Raw. This production cost US$160M to bring to the big screen, and it has so far recouped US$393M since it release in the US last week.

'LIFE' (Rated MA15+) - Directed by Daniel Espinosa this Horror Sci-Fi is set aboard an International Space Station where the six-man crew successfully intercept a probe returning from Mars with a sample inside. The crew is tasked with analysing that sample for what may prove to be the first signs of extra terrestrial life. As the crew celebrate their discovery and settle down to conduct their research, the primitive life form ultimately proves to be not so primitive as was thought as it rapidly evolves and proves to be much more intelligent, menacing and deadly that they could have imagined. The race is on to destroy it, before the crew are all destroyed, and the ISS returns to Earth with a deadly cargo capable of wiping out all humanity, if life on Mars, or lack of it, is anything to go by. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds and Rebecca Furgusson. The film was made for US$58M and is released Stateside this week also.

'POWER RANGERS' (Rated M) - after 24 years, 24 television seasons and now three cinema released films, this teen Superhero film gets a reboot with the Red, Pink, Blue, Black and Yellow Power Rangers saving the world for a cool budget of US$105M. Directed by Dean Israelite, this film features many of the characters as seen on the television series 'The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' albeit updated for a whole new audience brought up on a diet of Marvel and DC animated adaptations. Here five teenagers with attitude are thrust together either by design or by coincidence to become the newest line of warriors, crime fighters and protectors of the Earth, known as 'Power Rangers'. Quickly putting their real life teenage issues behind the them, the newly formed Power Rangers must assimilate quickly to each other, their new powers and their new responsibilities to protect their own small town of Angel Grove, and the world at large, from an alien attack, launched by Rita Repulsa (Elizabeth Banks), a powerful witch and former Green Power Ranger, with an army of stone golems and a giant golden monster. Starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, R.J. Cyler, Becky G and Ludi Lin as our titular young heroes with a particular set of skills, with Bill Hader and Bryan Cranston too.

'THE BOSS BABY' (Rated G) - this DreamWorks CGI animated feature is based on the 2010 picture book of the same name by Marla Frazee and is Directed by Tom McGrath. Here, the arrival of a new baby impacts a family, told from the perspective of a unreliable, albeit delightful narrator -- a wildly imaginative 7-year-old named Tim (Miles Bakshi, and narrated by Tobey Maguire as his adult self). The most unusual Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin) arrives at Tim's home in a taxi, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. Their sibling rivalry must soon be put aside when Tim discovers that Boss Baby is in fact a spy on a secret mission to win back the affection of his parents (Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow), and thwart a plot that involves the CEO of Puppy Co. Francis E. Francis (Steve Buscemi) in an epic battle between puppies and babies. The film is released in the US on 31st March.

Four films this week offering the usual range of genres and tastes from epic big budget Disney live action retelling, to an updated teenage Superhero offering, to an ET alien running rampant on an International Space Station, and wrapping up with an animated family offering with a message. Share your thoughts with us here at this Blog, and in the meantime, I'll see you somewhere, sometime in the coming week at your local Odeon.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Birthday's to share this week : 19th March - 25th March 2017.

Do you celebrate your Birthday this week?

Edgar Ramirez does on 25th March - check out my tribute to this Birthday Lad turning 40, at the end of this feature.

Do you also share your birthday with a well known, highly regarded & famous Actor or Actress; share your special day with a Director, Producer, Writer, Cinematographer, Singer/Songwriter or Composer of repute; or share an interest in whoever might notch up another year in the coming seven days? Then, look no further! Whilst there will be too many to mention in this small but not insignificant and beautifully written and presented Blog, here are the more notable and noteworthy icons of the big screen, and the small screen, that you will recognise, and that you might just share your birthday with in the week ahead. If so, Happy Birthday to you from Odeon Online!

Sunday 19th March
  • Ursula Andress - Born 1936, turns 81 - Actress
  • Glenn Close - Born 1947, turns 70 - Actress | Producer | Singer
  • Harvey Weinstein - Born 1952, turns 65 - Producer | Director | Writer
  • Bruce Willis - Born 1955, turns 62 - Actor | Producer | Singer  
Monday 20th March
  • Carl Reiner - Born 1922, turns 95 - Director | Producer | Actor | Writer
  • William Hurt - Born 1950, turns 67 - Actor
  • Spike Lee - Born 1957, turns 60 - Director | Producer | Writer | Actor
  • David Thewlis - Born 1963, turns 54 - Actor | Writer | Director
  • Michael Rappaport - Born 1970, turns 47 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Holly Hunter - Born 1958, turns 59 - Actress | Producer
  • Ruby Rose - Born 1986, turns 31 - Actress
Tuesday 21st March
  • Rosie O'Donnell - Born 1962, turns 55 - Actress | Producer | Writer | Singer
  • Timothy Dalton - Born 1946, turns 71 - Actor
  • Gary Oldman - Born 1958, turns 59 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer
  • Matthew Broderick - Born 1962, turns 55 - Actor | Producer | Director | Singer
  • Scott Eastwood - Born 1986, turns 31 - Actor | Producer  
Wednesday 22nd March
  • William Shatner - Born 1931, turns 86 - Actor | Producer | Director | Writer | Singer
  • M. Emmet Walsh - Born 1935, turns 82 - Actor
  • Bruno Ganz - Born 1941, turns 76 - Actor
  • Matthew Modine - Born 1959, turns 58 - Actor | Producer | Director | Cinematographer
  • Reese Witherspoon - Born 1976, turns 41 - Actress | Producer | Singer   
Thursday 23rd March
  • Amanda Plummer - Born 1957, turns 60 - Actress
  • Catherine Keener - Born 1959, turns 58 - Actress | Producer
  • Michelle Monaghan - Born 1976, turns 41 - Actress | Producer
  • Jaume Collet-Serra - Born 1974, turns 43 - Director | Producer
  • Daniel Espinosa - Born 1977, turns 40 - Director | Producer | Writer  
Friday 24th March
  • Patrick Malahide - Born 1945, turns 72 - Actor | Writer
  • Jim Parsons - Born 1973, turns 44 - Actor | Producer
  • Kelly LeBrock - Born 1960, turns 57 - Actress
  • Lara Flynn Boyle - Born 1970, turns 47 - Actress | Producer
  • Jessica Chastain - Born 1977, turns 40 - Actress | Producer
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes - Born 1990, turns 27 - Actress 
Saturday 25th March
  • Sarah Jessica Parker - Born 1965, turns 52 - Actress | Producer | Singer 
  • Paul Michael Glaser - Born 1943, turns 74 - Actor | Producer | Director
  • Edgar Ramirez - Born 1977, turns 40 - Actor | Producer
  • Lee Pace - Born 1979, turns 38 - Actor
Edgar Filiberto Ramirez Arellano was born in San Cristobal, Tachira, Venezuela, South America to mother Soday Arellano, a lawyer, and father Filbert Ramirez, an officer in the military service. He graduated from the Andres Bello Catholic University - a private and one of the largest universities in Venezuela, with its main campus in Caracas, in 1999 with a degree in mass communication. He had intended to pursue a career in international relations, and whilst at university he worked as a would-be journalist, reporting mainly on politics. He then became an Executive Director of 'Dale al Voto' - a foundation in Venezuela set up to engage and build the political understanding and reach of young people. For this, Ramirez and his team created campaigns that would appear on radio, television and in cinema. He also took charge of international promotions for the Viart Film Festival - a short film festival held in Caracas open to all students from Spanish speaking countries. Around about that time, Screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga was invited to attend the Viart Film Festival, and he saw Ramirez work in a short film being presented. He was so impressed that he offered Ramirez the chance to audition for 'Amores Perros' which he declined. The film Directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu went on to international acclaim. Hindsight is a wonderful thing! At this point Ramirez decided to reignite his interest in an acting career.

During the '90's Ramirez appeared sporadically in a number of television and film roles locally in Venezuela - kicking off with short lived television series 'Cuando Ilega el amor' in 1990, then 'Aqui esp-p-pantan', a horror fantasy comedy from 1993 involving ghosts terrorising a young couple who have recently moved into their house, and this was followed up in 1999 by '. . . sol y lluvia' about a young Venezuelan woman's dreams and aspirations of becoming Miss Venezuela. 2002 saw 'Plan B' a Venezuelan action crime drama in which Ramirez gained his first lead role. In 2003 he followed this up with a string of appearances on the romantic drama telenovela 'Cosita Rica' which ran from 2003 through 2004 for a total 270 episodes. In 2003 there was also Christmas drama 'Yotama se va volando', and then 'A Dot and a Line' the following year,

2005 saw Ramirez break into the Hollywood scene with his appearance in Tony Scott's 'Domino' inspired by the bounty hunting exploits of Domino Harvey, with Keira Knightley in the lead role, with Mickey Rourke, Delroy Lindo, Lucy Liu, Christopher Walken, Jacqueline Bisset, Mo'Nique and Ramirez as Choco - Domino's love interest. In 2006 he appeared in action crime offering 'El Don' and then Mexican film 'Elipsis' with Ramirez in the lead role once more.

The following year saw Ramirez appear alongside Matt Damon in the hugely successful Jason Bourne series in 'The Bourne Ultimatum', Directed by Paul Greengrass, in the role of Paz, a Blackbriar assassin, and later that same year in 'Cyrano Fernandez' in the lead role in this romantic action drama offering loosely based on the French play 'Cyrano de Bergerac'. The year after, 2008, he appeared in Steven Soderbergh's 'Che' - the biopic of the Argentine Marxist revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara with Benicio del Toro in the title role, and Ramirez appearing with an all star cast as Ciro Redondo (a Cuban revolutionary who fought amongst Ché Guevara). 'Vantage Point' followed that same year with again an all star cast including William Hurt, Matthew Fox, Forest Whittaker, Dennis Quaid and Sigourney Weaver, with Ramirez cast as Javier, an ex-special forces soldier forced to kidnap the American President in order to get his brother back.

Ramirez saw the decade out with his turn as 'Carlos' about the life of the 1970's Venezuelan revolutionary Carlos the Jackal (Ilich Ramírez Sánchez), covering his first series of attacks in 1973 until his arrest in 1994. This highly acclaimed three part mini-series which ran out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010 for its full five and half hour run time, garnered many award wins and nominations along the way, including Best Actor Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy, and SAG nods for Ramirez and multiple wins too, including France's Cesar Award for Most Promising Actor.

Up next in 2011 was Colombian vengeance action drama 'Greetings to the Devil', followed by the sequel to 2010's 'Clash of the Titans' with 'Wrath of the Titans' in which Ramirez plays Ares, the God of War, alongside Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Toby Kebbel, Bill Nighy and Rosamund Pike. French film 'An Open Heart' was next in 2012 with Juliette Binoche, before his turn in Kathryn Bigelow's multiple award winning 'Zero Dark Thirty' with Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler, Mark Strong and James Gandolfini.

2013 saw Ramirez star in Venezuelan historical biopic 'The Liberator' - the story of Simon Bolivar as portrayed by Ramirez, who fought in over one hundred battles against the Spanish Empire in South America, rode over seventy thousand miles on horseback in the process and his military campaigns covered twice the territory of Alexander the Great. He never once conquered in battle, instead, he liberated, believing in freedom for all! Working with Director Ridley Scott came next in 'The Counsellor' with Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Brad Pitt, Bruno Ganz, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz, and then 'Deliver Us from Evil' for Director Scott Derrickson with Eric Bana playing real life New York Police Officer Ralph Sarchie investigating a number of paranormal crimes who joins forces with Ramirez Mendoza character - a somewhat unconventional Priest versed in the way of exorcism and demonic possession.

Extreme sport crime drama actioner remake of the classic Kathryn Bigelow 'Point Break' opened 2016, with Ramirez playing the Bodhi character previously portrayed by Patrick Swayze, with Luke Bracey playing Johnny Utah as played by a young Keanu Reeves back in 1991. The film received less that favourable Reviews generally and made US$134M from its US$105M budget outlay. David O'Russell's biographical dramedy 'Joy' followed with Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano the inventor of the miracle mop, Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper with Ramirez playing Tony Miranne, Joy's ex-husband.

'Hands of Stone' was released last year with Ramirez playing Panamanian former professional boxer Roberto Duran. The film received a fifteen minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival last year, but this and Robert De Niro, John Turturro, Usher and Ellen Barkin also starring wasn't enough to save it from mixed critical Reviews and poor Box Office taking back just a quarter of its US$20M budget. Also last year came 'The Girl on the Train' with Emily Blunt and most recently 'Gold' with Matthew McConaughey bringing us up to date.

Next up for Ramirez is Sci-Fi crime fantasy 'Bright' for Director David Ayer and with Will Smith, Joel Edgerton and Noomi Rapace due later this year, then 'Love Child' for Director Todd Solondz with Penelope Cruz, and then television true crime series 'American Crime Story' with Ramirez set to play Gianni Versace in Season Three. Recently announced for 2018 is the pilot season for 'Black or White, Never Grey' running over thirteen episodes of the crime drama offering set in 1989.

Ramirez supports the 'Don't Shoot' campaign for Amnesty International which strives to eliminate the number of injuries and deaths caused by the irresponsible use of guns. He also took part in '5 Senses of Action' - an organisation which benefits children with special needs, and he has acted as the United Nations Children's Fund Goodwill Ambassador in the past too. All up Ramirez has 34 acting credits to his name and five as Producer. He has eleven award wins and a further ten nominations including Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy and SAG nods for 'Carlos'.

Edgar Ramirez - fluent in five languages - Spanish, English, French, Italian and German; had his US$150K watch collection stolen from his home in Caracas; has a deep fascination with human nature and all its virtues and flaws; is disciplined, structured, organised; believes in God, kindness and love; and is able to channel his personal feelings and beliefs into the roles he portrays with a convincing realism. Happy 40th Birthday to you Edgar, from Odeon Online.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Friday, 17 March 2017

KONG : SKULL ISLAND : Tuesday 14th March 2017.

I saw 'KONG : SKULL ISLAND' in the week. Wanting to catch a movie for which I could leave my brain at the door, I saw this offering in 3D because it was the only session that suited my timing. I wasn't disappointed by the first point, but I was for the second and maybe because 3D has been done to death now that it is no longer the novelty that it once was, and let me tell you 3D does little for this film beyond what you would expect. That said, the film does have other redeeming features.

In 84 years of film making history, 'King Kong' has featured countless times in live action and animated forms, in dramatic thrillers and cheesy send ups, on his own or battling some other equally menacing foe. 'King Kong' first mesmerised audiences back in 1933 by the remarkable stop-motion effects of Willis O'Brien, and a story that began on Skull Island, somewhere near Indonesia where as well as Kong, dinosaurs and giant insects also roamed the wild undiscovered landscape. In this origin story Kong is tracked down by filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) and falls for Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) culminating in the classic closing sequence atop the Empire State Building from which Kong eventually falls to his death. On the strength of this film, 'Son of Kong' was immediately put into production and released later on in 1933. 'Mighty Joe Young' followed in 1949 also featuring Robert Armstrong, and remade in 1998 starring Bill Paxton and Charlize Theron. Then courtesy of Japanese cinema, came 'King Kong vs. Godzilla' in 1962 and 'King Kong Escapes' in 1967. 1976 saw the Dino De Laurentiis produced remake 'King Kong' and that same year the Brits released the send up of all King Kong movies with 'Queen Kong'. 'King Kong Lives' was released in 1986 and Directed by John Guillermin who also Directed the 1976 film. Peter Jackson delivered us 'King Kong' in 2005 with all the modern day cutting edge technical wizardry he could throw at his three time Oscar winning film that brought in US$550M at the global Box Office. And so in 2017 we have another King Kong offering Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, made on a budget of US$185M and starring an ensemble cast and featuring a raft load of special effects and filmed in northern Vietnam, Hawaii and on Australia's Gold Coast. It has so far taken US$163M, and has garnered generally positive Reviews.

Set in the early '70's a secret organisation called 'Monarch' locate an island that is shrouded in mystery and is said to contain several new species. That island is named 'Skull Island' because from the air the island resembles the shape of a skull in profile. Enter Bill Randa (John Goodman) who works for Monarch who sets up the expedition to go boldly where no man has gone before. He and colleague Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) - a young geologist, Yale University graduate and well known for his ground breaking work on seismology seek the funding support from Senator Willis (Richard Jenkins) who reluctantly gives it. In turn Randa and Brooks recruit James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) a former British Air Services Captain who saw time in Vietnam and who has a particular set of tracking and survival skills. Also hired is Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) who leads the Sky Devils helicopter squadron who have to chopper in the expedition team. And then there's Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) a pacifist photojournalist who has an affinity with nature and the environment.

Pretty soon, the team are assembled and are en route via cargo ship to Skull Island and into the unknown. They get their briefing, military style, and as they approach, the order is given to man the helicopters and negotiate their way through the islands own weather system which sees the island shrouded in thick storm clouds. For Packard and his team of hardened Vietnam War vets, this is a walk in the park, and what could possibly go wrong with a few lightning strikes and a little wet weather? How wrong could they be?

After successfully negotiating the surrounding storm front the fleet of choppers emerge into sudden clear blue skies, sunshine and lush tropical islands below - a picture of paradise lost! Randa and Packard give the order to Brooks to release the seismic charges and they detonate in the verdant forests below shaking the ground with explosion after explosion. This draws the attention of a certain giant bipedal ape the like of which no man has ever witnessed before, and one by one 'Kong' plucks the helicopters out of the sky, swatting them like flies and sending them crashing down to the dense forest floor below. Many are destroyed resulting in those that survived being split into two groups.

After burying their dead, the group containing Conrad, Weaver and Brooks and young Monarch biologist San Lin (Jing Tian) amongst a few others, stumble across a deserted ancient looking village. Venturing inside they are met with local Iwi natives and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) who was shot down over the island in a aerial dogfight 28 years earlier during WWII and has been on the island ever since despite his eight attempts to get of it. He has been befriended by the Iwi's, has lived with them all this time, and has learned a thing or two about the island, and it's giant animal life - friendly and harmless, and not so!

Marlow tells the group that Kong is the island's guardian and is worshipped as a god by the natives for protecting them from 'Skullcrawlers'. These reptilian underground lizard monsters slaughtered Kong's parents and ancestors, leaving him as the last of his kind. Marlow also tells them that Kong only attacked the helicopters to prevent the bombs from awakening the largest Skullcrawler, and therefore protecting the locals from it. After being welcomed by the Iwi who take the group back to their heavily fortified village (for protection from the Skullcrawlers, not Kong), and learning more of their culture and beliefs, the group head out on a motor boat that Marlow spent six years building out of salvaged parts from his WWII downed plane. In the meantime, Conrad has an up close and personal encounter with some of the wildlife present on the island!

Needing to reunite with the second group and rendezvous at a designated time with a resupply team in the islands north, Conrad and his group disembark their boat upstream in search for Randa, Packard and his men. They reunite, but Packard is insistent that they continue to search for missing right hand man, Jack Chapman (Tony Kebbell). Little do they know that Chapman was eaten by a Skullcrawler earlier on. Conrad leads the team into the 'Forbidden Zone' - a former battleground and now graveyard containing the skeleton remains of Kong's ancestors.

The Skullcrawler that killed Chapman emerges and attacks, devouring Randa in a moment of lost concentration as he played with his camera. Many of Packards soldiers are massacred too, before Weaver kills it by setting off an explosion. Packard blames Kong for the deaths of his men and wants vengeance. He retrieves seismic explosives from one of his downed helicopters to lure Kong into a trap and kill him using napalm.  Conrad in turn leads the non-military group back to the boat so they can rendezvous with the resupply team in time.

The groups now separated again, with Packard vowing to destroy the giant ape in a ball of fire, and Conrad working back to meet up with the boat. While out scouting the surrounding lie of the land to get their bearings from a high peak with which to look down, Conrad and Weaver come face to face with Kong. Sensing that Kong is not the bad guy here, they resolve to do what they can to save him, to which Marlow staunchly agrees. 

As Kong turns away from Conrad and Weaver his attention is grabbed by fires and explosions set by Packard to lure the ape out into the open, and engulf him in napalm flame. Packard is successful in bringing Kong down, but he's not out. Meanwhile a standoff ensues as Conrad and Weaver arrive at the scene just before Packard is about to butcher Kong once and for all, using more explosives. The group is attacked by the dominant Skullcrawler, giving Kong enough time to recover his senses and stand on his two feet. As Packard is set to detonate the explosives taking out Kong, so Kong stamps on him with his giant size 38 feet!

As Conrad, Weaver and Marlow seek their escape back to the boat and a waiting Brooks and Lin, they are pursued by the Skullcrawler. At which point Kong arrives to their aid, and an epic battle ensues between the two giant creatures. Kong prevails needless to say by ripping out the Skullcrawlers guts through its mouth at the end of its elongated forked tongue. The group make their getaway with Kong looking on, he then turns and walks away. 

In a post credits sequence, Conrad and Weaver are held in detention and interrogated by Monarch officials, and Skull Island expedition survivors Brooks and Lin in a bunker at some undisclosed location, watched from behind a one way window. Conrad and Weaver are told that Kong is not the only monster to roam the world, and are shown archive film of cave paintings depicting Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, and Ghidorah. This sets up the already announced Legendary Pictures 'MonsterVerse' and their planned May 2020 release of the 'Godzilla vs. Kong' film.

I enjoyed this film, but it is everything you would expect it to be. A simple somewhat implausible popcorn story that sees strong enough performances from the principle cast, but which are overshadowed by the special effects, the action set pieces, the enormity of Kong (delivered expertly though motion capture by Terry Notary), and the other creatures that share Kong's world. There is a high body count with bodies getting eaten, trampled on, thrown asunder and dismembered, and the film runs along at a solid pace without any melodramatic interludes. Sure 'Kong : Skull Island' stands tall in the pantheon of better 'King Kong' film fare in its 84 year history, but not tall enough to outshine its original predecessor. Worth a look on the big screen nonetheless.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

What's new in Odeon's this week : Thursday 16th March 2017.

With 'Logan' already topping US$435M at the global Box Office since its 3rd March release, this year there is planned a whole raft of Superhero entertainment to give us more reasons to return to your local movie theatre . . . if Superhero fare is your kinda thing of course, and, judging by global Box Office takings, it seems to be so for a large portion of the cinema going public. So pencil in your diary, here is quick summary of what you can still expect in the remaining nine months of this year, and when :-

* 'LOGAN' (Marvel) - released on 3rd March, and Reviewed at this Blog. Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Dafne Keen in this James Mangold tenth instalment in the 'X-Men' franchise, and the third stand alone Logan/Wolverine offering . . . and possibly the best!
* 'POWER RANGERS' - released on 23rd March. After 24 years, 24 television seasons and now three cinema released films, this teen Superhero film gets a reboot with the Red, Pink, Blue, Black and Yellow Power Rangers saving the world for a cool budget of US$105M.
* 'THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE' (DC) - released on 30th March and already having grossed US$276M and starring the voice talents of Will Arnett as Bruce Wayne/Batman and an impressive voice cast that includes Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Zach Galifianakis, Eddie Izzard, Seth Green, Zoe Kravitz, Rosario Dawson amongst others.
* 'GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY : Vol. 2' (Marvel) - released on 25th April, and following hot on the heels of the first film from 2014 which took a staggering (and unexpected) US$776M, 'Volume 2' is once again Directed by James Gunn and sees this intergalactic action heroes reprise their roles - Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Michael Rooker, Glenn Close and introducing Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone too.
* 'WONDER WOMAN' (DC) - released on 1st June with Gal Gadot reprising her role as Diana Prince/Wonder Woman from last years 'Batman v. Superman' this is an origin story of how Princess Diana came to be Wonder Woman during her fight to bring WWI to an early end. Also starring Chris Pine, Ewen Bremner, David Thewlis, Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright. Directed by Patty Jenkins.
* 'TRANSFORMERS : THE LAST KNIGHT' - released on 22nd June, this will be the fifth instalment in the hugely successful Michael Bay Directed franchise that has seen Box Office receipts for the first four films top US$3.7B from combined US$755M production budgets. This fifth film sees Mark Wahlberg reprise his role as Cade Yaeger, with Stanley Tucci from 'Age of Extinction' with Josh Duhamel, John Turturro and Tyrese Gibson joining from the first three instalments with Anthony Hopkins making an appearance here too. 'Transformers 6' has already been announced for a mid-2019 release although not with Michael Bay Directing.
* 'SPIDERMAN : HOMECOMING' (Marvel) - released on 6th July, this Superhero is a real family favourite that has been through many live action iterations over the years. Most recently Sam Raimi's three films with Tobey Maguire as our web slinging young hero; then Director Marc Webb's two more recent follows up with Andrew Garfield; and now Tom Holland Directed by Jon Watts, that sees Spidey following up his outing form 'Captain America : Civil War' tutored by his mentor Tony Stark as he tries to balance his life as  fifteen year old school kid with his life as a New York crime fighting Superhero. Michael Keaton also stars as new threat, Vulture.
* 'THOR : RAGNAROK' (Marvel) - released on 26th October, this is the third solo outing for 'Thor' as played by Chris Hemsworth that follows on from the events of 'Avengers : Age of Ultron'. Directed by Taika Waititi, the previous two films took US$1.05B making this seventeenth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe a sure bet. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) reprises his role as does Stephen Strange/Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) in a cross over feature, with Loki, Odin, and Heimdall all making appearances again, with Cate Blanchett, Jeff Goldblum and Karl Urban adding to the cast.
* 'JUSTICE LEAGUE' (DC) - released on 16th November, this is the fifth film in the DC Extended Universe that follows on from the events of last years 'Batman v. Superman' that sees Bruce Wayne assemble a group of metahumans to thwart a potentially catastrophic enemy. Those Justice League conscripts are of course Batman (Ben Affleck), Superman (Henry Cavill), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), Aquaman (Jason Momoa), The Flash (Ezra Miller) and Cyborg (Ray Fisher) who must fight Steppinwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his extraterrestrial monstrous army the Parademons. Directed by Zack Snyder with Jesse Eisenberg, Jeremy Irons, Amy Adams, Willem Dafoe, Connie Nielsen, Diane Lane and J.K.Simmons also starring

Turning attention back to this week, there are five new film releases, all offering something completely different. We kick off with a little known but nonetheless landmark case in American history centering around an interracial marriage when it was illegal to do so. We then move to a psychological horror film set in the secluded mountains where this exclusive health spa retreat is not all it may seem; then we have a Sci-Fi romantic drama offering of a young human martian venturing back to Planet Earth to find his biological father, and falls in love in the process. Next up is an Aussie outback off road trip adventure, before wrapping up with an unlikely yet critically acclaimed Mongolian documentary film about a young girl and a bird of prey.

When you have sat through your film or films of choice in the coming week, be reminded to share your movie going thoughts, observations and musings with your fellow readers here at Odeon Online. Leave your relevant, constructive and succinct note in the Comments section below this or any other Post - we'd love to hear your views on your cinematic experience. In the meantime, enjoy your film.

'LOVING' (Rated PG) - this biographical romantic drama film was Directed and Written by Jeff Nichols and has gained much critical praise winning twenty-one awards and a further 84 nominations including Academy Award, Golden Globes and AACTA nods for the two principle leads. Made for US$9M, and since its release in the US back in early November and the UK in early February it has just about recovered that sum. Based on 2011 documentary 'The Loving Story' by Nancy Buirski which follows the Lovings and their landmark legal case. That case was 'Loving v. Virginia' of 1967, a civil rights decision of the United States Supreme Court, which invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage. The case was instigated by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated the state's anti-miscegenation statute at the time, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people classified as 'white' and people classified as 'coloured'. The Supreme Court's unanimous decision determined that this prohibition was unconstitutional, and ended all race based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States. Not surprisingly, the decision was followed by an increase in interracial marriages in the U.S., and is remembered annually on Loving Day, on June 12. Richard Loving died in a car accident in 1975, and Mildred Loving died in 2008. This is their story.

And so the films follows construction worker bricklayer Richard Loving (Golden Globe nominated Joel Edgerton) in Virginia who falls in love with a black woman and friend of the family Mildred Jeter (Academy Award nominated Ruth Negga). When Mildred falls pregnant they agree to marry, but knowing the interracial marriage is illegal in Virginia they travel to Washington D.C. where it is not. And so they marry and return to Virginia, where Richard is set to build a family home for them both within a mile from where Mildred grew up. It is 1958. Shortly afterwards, several Police Deputies converge on the Lovings to arrest them. When Richard shows them their marriage license, they are told that it holds no validity in Virginia and that they both face a year in jail. They plead guilty but the Judge shows some leniency as long as they do not return to Virginia together for another 25 years. Mildred writes in protest to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who points the couple in the direction of American Civil Liberties Union and a lawyer who takes up the case. Also starring Marton Csokas, Michael Shannon and Nick Kroll.

'A CURE FOR WELLNESS' (Rated MA15+) - this psychological horror offering is Directed by Gore Verbinski whose previous Directorial credits include three 'Pirates of the Caribbean' offerings, 'The Lone Ranger', the animated 'Rango', 'The Ring' and 'The Mexican' amongst others. Here as well as Directing, he also Co-Produces and came up with the storyline too about an ambitious young corporate executive type named Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) who is sent on a mission to retrieve the company's CEO from a seemingly idyllic yet mysterious wellness centre located in the remote Swiss Alps. The Board of Directors back at the Company have an ulterior motive for wanting to retrieve their CEO, Roland Pembroke (Harry Groener). Upon Lockhart's arrival, he is met with some resistance from the staff, especially Dr. Heinreich Volmer (Jason Isaacs). In time, Lockhart who is forced to remain at the Centre due to a leg injury sustained in a car accident, meets up with another patient Hannah (Mia Goth) who drinks from a cobalt blue bottle a strange looking liquid, and then Victoria Watkins (Celia Imrie) who divulges things about the Centre's past and the former owner dating back some two hundred years. It seems that not everything is quite as it seems, as unspeakable horrors from the past and the present manifest themselves before Lockhart is able to return to the outside world . . . or does he?

'THE SPACE BETWEEN US' (Rated M) - here we have a romantic Sci-Fi adventure story as Directed by Peter Chelsom for US$30M, released Stateside in early February and so far it as recovered just US$11M and has received largely negative press. Set in the near future, a Nathaniel Shepard (Gary Oldman) as the CEO of a space colonisation company Genesis, launches the first manned mission to inhabit Mars. Along the way en route to Mars astronaut Sarah Elliot (Janet Montgomery) discovers she is pregnant and soon after landing, in childbirth she dies. But her new born son, survives. The father is unknown at this stage. Shepard, decides to let the child live, on Mars, under secrecy from the world to avoid a PR train wreck. Fast forward sixteen years, and Gardner Elliot (Asa Butterfield) has grown up to be an intelligent lad who has only ever met fourteen other human beings, and knows nothing outside of his existence on Mars, other than what he sees on a computer screen. However, being the inquisitive young fellow that he is, and with plenty of time on his hands he decides to do some digging to determine his parentage. What follows is Gardner's exploits and life changing adventure as he ventures to Earth for the first time to find his father, falls in love, and ultimately has to return to Mars to save his own life. Also starring Carla Gugino, Britt Robertson, Gil Birmingham, B.D.Wong and Scott Takeda.

'ROUGH STUFF' (Rated M) - known as 'Rovers', they are best described as wanderers and drifters living on the edges of society in the Australian outback, looking to escape their past lives and start life afresh. Written and Directed by Jonathan Adams, here we find Buzz (Gareth Rickards) who has searched high and low across every nook & cranny of the great Australian continent in search of the legendary Stray’s Gold - a treasure that will keep him in car spare parts and fuel for the rest of his life. Just as he is ready to jack it all in, Buzz is approached by Eric (Jamie Kristian) who just happens to have a map supposedly leading to the whereabouts of the fabled Stray’s Gold. Eric is happy to part with the map in exchange for passage for him and his activist buddies Tori (Hayley Sullivan), Skye (Katie Garfield) and Tom (Adam Horner) who want to stage a protest at the site of a new mine from mining company Madsen Minerals, led by unscrupulous Daniel Madsen (Robert Babin). Seeing this as his last ditch attempt to realise his life long goal, Buzz convinces his ragtag crew of Rovers, Abe and Scraps (Vincent Andriano and Sam Glissan respectively), to follow him on one last attempt to locate the gold. With their souped-up custom off-road 4WD's, the Rovers and the Activists embark on the wildest and most intrepid adventure of their lives, but with rising tensions and ulterior motives coming to the fore, so exciting off-road chases, daring rescues, clashing personalities and amazing discoveries ensue.

'THE EAGLE HUNTRESS' (Rated G) - this Kazakh language British, Mongolian and American Co-Production was first screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016, released in the US in early November and in the UK in mid-December and has so far taken US$3M. It has picked up eight award wins and another eighteen nominations, including a BAFTA nod. Directed by Otto Bell, in his debut, and partly narrated by Daisy Ridley, this documentary film tells the story of a young thirteen year old Kazakh girl Aisholpan, as she strives to become the first female eagle hunter to take part in the Eagle Festival at Ulgii in Mongolia, first established in 1999. She hails from a family of nomads that spend the Summer months in a yurt in the Altai Mountains and their Winters in the comfort of a house in a nearby town. The men of her family have been eagle hunters for multiple generations, and she has ambitions to follow in their footsteps. With the aid of her father Nurgaiv, she learns how to train Golden Eagles, and then captures and trains her own eaglet. Although she faces some disbelief, resentment and opposition from the traditionally male dominated domain, she goes on to become the first female to enter the competition at the annual Golden Eagle Festival, wins the competition, and, her eaglet breaks a speed record in one of the events too. The film is Executive Produced by Morgan Spurlock, which helped get the Production over the line, and in the can.

There really is something for everyone this week, ranging from romantic drama bio, to space age romantic adventure, to psychological horror, to outback adventure to foreign language family doco. There is no better reason to get out to your local movie theatre and catch a film of choice in your week ahead, and then, share your views with us here. So, I guess I'll see you sometime, somewhere in the coming week at your local Odeon.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-

Monday, 13 March 2017

LOGAN : Tuesday 7th March 2017

I caught 'LOGAN' last week at my local multiplex. Hugh Jackman has been playing the character of James 'Logan' Howlett aka 'Wolverine' aka 'Weapon X' for the past seventeen years and has appeared in nine 'X-Men' films including this latest release which he says will be his last outing as the titular wisecracking adamantium clawed Superhero. He first appeared in 2000's 'X-Men' and then in 2003's 'X2', then in 2006 in 'X-Men : The Last Stand'. In 2009 Logan got his first stand alone feature in 'X-Men Origins : Wolverine' and was Directed by Gavin Hood bringing in US$374M at the global Box Office. 'X-Men : FirstClass' followed in 2011, then 'The Wolverine' in 2013 another stand alone feature Directed by James Mangold and bringing in US$415M in worldwide receipts. 'X-Men : Days of Future Past' was released in 2014, and 'X-Men : Apocalypse' in 2016. All up those first eight 'X-Men' films in which Wolverine/Logan has appeared have generated US$3.6B at the Box Office from a budget outlay of US$1.2B. Now 'Logan' is back in his final instalment (allegedly) and is once again Directed by James Mangold and this time on a US$97M budget in this third stand alone offering and the tenth film in the 'X-Men' franchise. Early reports have been very positive, with some saying it is the best 'X-Men' film to date, and so far the film has taken US$439M at the global Box Office.

Set in a near future world of 2029, where the mutant population is dwindling, with no new mutant births in over twenty years. With it Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) dreams of a brave new world featuring a new stage of mutant evolution, but those dreams have slowly died. James Howlett aka Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has settled into a life as a hard drinking limo driver somewhere on the Mexican border. He scrapes together a meagre living while hustling medication for an increasingly infirm and ageing Professor X whom he cares for in a ram shackle abandoned smelting plant shared with Caliban (Stephen Merchant) who also looks after and attends to the ailing Professor whose strong telepathic powers have now become unstable and unpredictable with his advancing years. Logan too is ageing and his powers aren't what they used to be, as the adamantium fused to his bones is slowly poisoning him and working against his healing powers. Caliban is an albino mutant who has the ability to sense and track other mutants, but is adverse to sunlight as it burns his fragile skin.

After some introductory scuffles in a car park where Logan's prized stretched limo is being carjacked by a bunch of heavies, Logan proves that he still has what it takes to dispense with pesky criminal types. A short time later we see him being approached by Gabriella (Elizabeth Rodriguez) a former nurse at Alkali-Transigen (a biotech company responsible for the Weapon X programme). She wants Logan to escort her and an eleven year old girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) across the border and over to a place in North Dakota called 'Eden'. She is prepared to pay and offer Logan US$20K cash up front with the balance of US$30K on safe delivery at the other end. Logan is very reluctant and refuses at first.

In the meantime Logan is tracked down by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), Transigen's relentless, calculating and cybernetically enhanced Head of Security, who seeks Logan's support in locating the young girl and returning her to Transigen. Logan refuses Pierce too.

After accepting the job from Gabriella, Logan finds her dead at their designated pick up point and no sign of Laura. Logan takes the cash anyway and disappears back to his secluded hideaway. Tending to an ailing Charles Xavier, they are interrupted by Pierce and his bunch of similarly cybernetically enhanced heavies, The Reavers. Laura appears having stowed away in the boot of Logan's limo, and disappears into the now long redundant smelting plant quickly followed by three Reavers. What follows is Laura proving who and what she really is - a mysterious young mutant who is very much like Logan, which is hardly surprising given that she was cloned from his blood, and using Logan's DNA Transigen weaponised clones of him. And so Laura quickly dispenses with the three goons, emerging carrying the head of one of those Reavers.

With Caliban captured, the three narrowly escape in Logan's limo leaving a trail of bloodshed, death and destruction in their wake. But Pierce, using Caliban's mutant tracking powers to follow them, is never far behind them. In a quiet moment, Logan and Xavier watch a video on Gabriella's phone showing that she hatched a plan to evacuate as many children out of the Tnansigen facility as she could, Laura included. They were breeding mutant children using DNA samples from several mutants, but as the children grew up and became stronger and more powerful, so they were increasingly harder to control. As that project became obsolete, so the order was given to terminate this children, hence the escape plan.

Taking the action to Oklahoma City en route to North Dakota, the three stop off at a hotel casino to freshen up, acquire a change of clothes and change their bullet hole ridden limo for a vehicle less obvious. There Logan finds one of Laura's comic books of the 'X-Men' and inside notices a reference to a safe haven for mutants known as 'Eden'. He deduces that no such place can exist as it is a place of fiction appearing in a common book and the work of someones imagination.

When returning from sourcing a new car, the Reavers and Pierce have caught up with the three mutants in the hotel, during which time Xavier suffers a seizure and telepathically freezes all those within the hotel casino and in the immediate vicinity. Logan is able to battle through Xaviers freezing seizure and inject him with a suppressant, but not before taking out all the gathered Reavers in the room where Xavier and Laura were being held.

While on the road having left the carnage of Oklahoma City behind them, they encounter a family on the highway who have a road traffic accident involving several horses they were carrying in a trailer behind. The threesome help by rounding up the horses, and out of gratitude the family invite them back to their homestead for dinner. Logan is keen to avoid this type of interaction, but is overruled by Xavier in favour of a comfortable charitable evening of home cooked food and a a warm welcome.

Logan and the husband of the family are distracted by a burst water main that take them off property to fix it. In the meantime, Pierce and his goons have caught up with the family and a real clone of Logan, X-24 (also played by Hugh Jackman in a younger version of himself) takes out the entire family and stabs Xavier through the chest inflicting life threatening wounds. Logan appears as X-24 is carrying off Laura heavily shackled. Logan and the feral clone of himself go head to head in an intense close quarter fight sequence, that sees the X-24 impaled on a combine harvester by the husband of the family who discovered his slaughtered wife and children, before succumbing to X-24's razor sharp claws himself.

Caliban meanwhile sacrifices himself by detonating two hand grenades in the back of the truck where he is being held captive by Pierce and Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), the brains behind the Transigen projects, and whose father Logan killed when he escaped from the Weapon X programme at Alkali Lake.

Laura and Logan bury Xavier, and then Logan collapses exhausted. He wants to abandon the worthless trip to Eden, but Laura convinces him to see his commitment out. X-24 is far from dead meanwhile having been administered a regeneration serum to aid and speed up his healing process. Logan and Laura duly arrive at Eden and are greeted by the other escaped mutant children. Logan is nursed back to a degree of health through two days of almost solid sleep and small doses of a healing serum administered by one of the teenage children, Rictor (Jason Genao).

At this point Logan agrees to part company with the group of mutant children, and waking the next morning from his deep slumber he finds Eden deserted and the children gone. Through a telescope perched high in a look out he spies the Reavers in the forest in the distance in hot pursuit of the children. He has no alternative but to go to their aid. Gaining ground and in close proximity, Logan injects himself with an overdose of the healing serum which sends him into a rage, in which he quickly dispenses with many Reavers before the serum wears off. Leaving only Rice, Pierce, X-24 and a few remaining Reavers, the children use their combined powers to dispense with Pierce and the last of the Reavers. Logan shoots Rice and kills him, and then goes head to head with X-24 in a brutal bloody battle to the end.

The upshot of all of this, is that the mutant children make it to safety we have to assume as they cross the border in search of a new beginning, and those that will give them safe harbour.

The critics and the audiences have praised 'Logan' and deservedly so. This is not your usual run 'o' the mill Superhero movie. The performances from Jackman, Stewart and Keen especially are all first rate. Jackman portrays Logan as the broken, weakened, vulnerable ageing man - a shadow of his former cigar munching wise cracking invincible self that represents probably his best performance as Wolverine/Logan in his seventeen year run. Stewart too lets down his guard completely as an equally broken man no longer in control of his emotions or his senses, rambling on, unsteady on his feet, and devoid of any greatness that he portrayed in previous 'X-Men' instalments. And as for young Keen - she could turn on a dime from sweet innocent young girl to menacing strength and ruthless killer in a heartbeat, and delivers her role convincingly. The story is well conceived, brutally acted out with slice and dice action sequences that deliver a high body count but not in the traditional Superhero way, but in a more grounded realistic way, and decidedly more adult oriented fare that delivers on just about every level. Catch it on the big screen while you can - you won't be disappointed.

-Steve, at Odeon Online-