‘LBJ’

LBJ_(film)A worthy, slightly dull talkfest of events immediately prior to and following the assassination of John F Kennedy – with a focus on Texan Vice President Lyndon B Johnson.

Forthright and vulgar – and diametrically opposed to a number of Kennedy’s key policies, including the Civil Rights Bill – Johnson nevertheless stepped up to the mark on Kennedy’s death. Some, including Bobby Kennedy (a fresh-faced Michael Stahl-David – Cloverfield, In Your Eyes), believing callously too quickly.

LBJ is an informative biopic of the man who pushed through a great number of landmark social policies but who is ultimately judged as the president who escalated American involvement in Vietnam. But the film very much belongs to Woody Harrelson (The People Versus Larry Flint, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) and his vibrant, convincing performance as the man carrying the weight of the free world on his shoulders.

Rating: 56%

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‘Ocean’s 8’

oceanGary Ross (Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games) is no Steven Soderbergh. Consequently, the quick-witted pizzazz and slick style of Ocean’s 11 and 12 (OK, 13 can be ignored…) are sadly and noticeably missing.

Released from prison, Sandra Bullock (sister of George Clooney’s recently deceased Danny Ocean) rounds up the gals for a massive diamond heist at the First Monday of May Met gala. Cue the likes of Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham-Carter, Rihanna and Sarah Paulson joining the fray – with the Cartier Toussaint necklace, to be worn by Anne Hathaway, the main target.

It’s more zircon than diamond, with a star-studded cast and plentiful cameos wholly wasted (with the exception of the quirky Helena Bonham-Carter). A damp squib.

Rating: 46%

‘Deadpool 2’

deadpoolMarvel’s follow-up to the refreshing 2016 Deadpool is a templated repeat formula of the first film – but with no suspense, off-the-mark humour and a derivative storyline.

Ryan Reynolds is back as the foul-mouthed Wade Wilson – and it’s fellow mutants who need to band together to save the young Firefist (Julian Dennison – Hunt for the Wilder People, Paper Planes) from the time-travelling Cyborg, Cable (Josh Brolin – Sicario, George W.)

An interesting casting decision regarding Brolin as Cable and Thanos in The Avengers but that’s where any interest in Deadpool 2 begins and ends. A bore.

Rating: 30%

‘Tully’

Tully-Movie-PosterAfter the misfire that was Ricki & the Flash, it’s good to see writer Diablo Cody reunited with director Jason Reitman, the team responsible for Juno and Young Adult.

A heavily-pregnant Charlize Theron (Young Adult, Monster) is just not coping as it is with money tight, two young kids to care for and a loving husband who prefers video games to recognising the stress his wife is under. Enter Tully (Mackenzie Davis – Blade Runner 2049, The Martian) – a night nanny and Godsend. Only not everything is what it seems.

Quirky yet dark humour abounds but with more than its share of issues that are no laughing matter, the two women shine as they play off against each other.

Rating: 72%

‘Chappaquiddick’

chappaquiddick_xlgA damning account of Senator Edward Kennedy’s role in the 1969 car accident that killed his potential presidential campaign secretary, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara).

Political corruption comes to the fore as the last surviving son of the Kennedy clan faces potential charges. Australian actor Jason Clarke (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Mudbound) completely owns the role of the arrogant career politician who leaves the scene of the accident, failing to even report the event to the police.

Sadly, a fascinating story that essentially ended the presidential hopes of Kennedy lacks passion and vigour as director John Curran (Tracks, The Painted Veil) allows the narrative to simply plod along.

Rating: 52%

‘The Avengers: Infinity War’

avengers-infinity-war-ground-rulesThe behemoth that is Marvel Comics continues unabated with the next instalment of its superhero comic characters. Yet, in spite of new blood attached to The Avengers in the guise of The Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers: Infinity War is the same same and not really very different. Result is that, whilst occasionally funny and occasionally exciting, it all gets monotonously boring.

Thanos (Josh Brolin – Milk, Sicario) is looking to collect all six Infinity Stones to cull the universe: The Avengers needless to say are out to stop him. Problem is they’re spread all over the universe. And that’s how it predominantly stays with various superheroes separately in battle with Thanos or his sidekicks. The fractured nature of physical presence (were they all ever on the set at the same time?) is reflected in a fractured narrative that is repetitive and ultimately dull.

Rating: 44%

‘Last Flag Flying’

Last_Flag_FlyingA road trip with a difference, Richard Linklater’s (Boyhood, Before Sunset) sincere latest is off by a beat throughout – its humour, its drama, its warmth, its camaraderie.

Thirty years after Vietnam, Doc (a quietly dignified Steve Carell – Foxcatcher, The 40 Year-Old Virgin) reunites with Bryan Cranston (Trumbo, Argo) and Laurence Fishburne (The Matrix, Man of Steel) to bury his son, killed in action in Iraq.

As they accompany the body across country, the men they were is slowly revealed through the patina of who they are now. But the connection between the three does not ring true and, as a result, the chamber-piece drama fails to ignite.

Rating: 54%

‘Isle of Dogs’

IsleOfDogsFirstLookA visual treat from auteur Wes Anderson (Grand Hotel Budapest, Fantastic Mr Fox) in his latest stop-motion animation.

It’s quirky, humorous and wholly imaginative as young Akiri goes on an odyssey in search of his dog. Akiri’s guardian is the corrupt mayor of the Japanese city of Nagasaki – and it is he who has banished all dogs.

Beautifully crafted – and in spite of its seeming whimsy there’s a message lurking just beneath the surface.

Rating: 81%

‘Ready Player One’

readyplayeronePredominantly CGI, what it lacks in character development it more than makes up for in its upbeat, action-packed energy.

Unexpectedly immersive, Spielberg (Jurassic Park, Raiders of the Lost Ark) lets his avatars play their quest to find the egg hidden in the reality game – and stop Ben Mendelssohn (Rogue One – A Star Wars Story, Darkest Hour) from creating a gaming monopoly in the real world.

It’s a visual spectacle, with enough grunge reality to provide respite as Tye Sheridan (Mud, X-Men Apocalypse) and Olivia Cooke (Me & Earl & the Dying Girl, The Limehouse Golem) find adventure and love. True, Spielberg avoids commentary on the darker elements of a world controlled by technocracy, but as a piece of escapist entertainment, there’s little faulting Ready Player One.

Rating: 66%

‘A Quiet Place’

quiet_place_xlgHusband and wife team John Kranski (13 Hours, TV’s The Office) and Emily Blunt (Sicario, The Devil Wears Prada) play a convincing husband and wife in this post-apocalyptic survival story.

No explanations as to why and where from (and the stronger for it) – all we know is that ‘they’ are blind but respond to the slightest sound, ending in an immediate and gory death. We start at day 95 and end at day 460-something. In the interim, Kranski and Blunt and two of their kids have constructed a life of virtual silence on their farm, surviving in hiding and in a state of constant dread.

It’s that claustrophobic quiet that creates a deep sense of foreboding and fear – but the strength of A Quiet Place is the balance of horror with a genuine family drama.

Rating: 71%