In lieu of a lunch date last week (unfortunately my companion was not able to make it), I took myself to the cinema. Despite not getting much use of the Odeon Limitless pass last year, I’ve nevertheless decided to renew (albeit paying monthly rather than one lump sum) as even if I can try to aim for two movies a month, it’s still ever so slightly cheaper than the full ticket price.
So I went and saw James Gunn’s Guardian of the Galaxy, Vol 2, and I have to say I’ve never had such a great time at the cinema watching a movie. It is a FUN film. A fun, fun, film. It never takes itself too seriously for the most part, but for even for the hardest of hearts, you’ll be shedding a tear by the end. I have never laughed so hard at any film before – and the audience loved it too. The gang are back – Star Lord, Gamora, Drax, Baby Groot and Rocket Racoon – but this time they’re joined by Yondu and Mantis. I’ll say nothing of the plot, other than it essentially picks up from the first film and explores Star Lord’s paternity. The film is peppered throughout with a stonking soundtrack, picked out by Gunn himself, and the use of John Lennon’s Oh My Lord and Cat Steven’s Father & Son is just beautiful – as is the opening titles featuring ELO’s Mr. Blue Sky. You’ll be wanting to download the full playlist from Apple Music (or Spotify) afterwards and play it over and over again. A soundtrack selection like this hasn’t been this good since Harold & Maude (which made very heavy use of Cat Steven’s repertoire) – and of course the original Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 1. James Gunn has said on social media that he’s aware of, and is trying to get UHD release of GotG Vol 2 – if so, this would mark the first Marvel Studios film to get one, and given how colourful and epic the cinematography is in this film – would be the right way to view the film at home.
Almost immediately afterwards I went and saw Alien: Covenant (or as my autocorrect likes to call it, Alien: Convenient!). I know a lot of people didn’t enjoy Prometheus, but I liked it. It’s nice to try and provide a back story to the origins of everything that’s happened up until the original 1979 Alien, and Alien: Covenant takes that further – but tries to get back to its horror roots. We have chestbursters, backbusters, vomitbursters and all sorts in this one. There are some very effective scares brought on by a wonderful sound mix. I’m not a person to jump out my skin easily, but there were at least two points in the film I did so (as I’m sure did the audience, when they weren’t playing with their bloody mobile phones) – mainly due to the sound design. If this film is going to win anything, it’ll be for sound design and VFX (by my former employers, MPC, of course). Alien: Covenant is an intriguing film – and if you’re a fan of the original Alien I’d recommend it. It doesn’t quite have the same impact (when you seen one chestbuster, you’ve seen them all), and the characters are definitely not the sharpest tools in the box. But it makes for an entertaining 2 hours romping through the mythology of Alien and preparing us for the third and final prequel in the trilogy. As a side note – it’s interesting that this film has been rated 15. It features a fair amount of gore – but I suspect as technology has improved, audiences have become wiser to how things work and these things are just not as shocking or as bad as they seem back in the olden days of filmmaking.
On the home entertainment front, I watched A Monster Calls on iTunes. It is a magnificent effort in storytelling – simply a beautiful, wonderful film. Essentially it tells of a young boy who is being bullied at school and is being raised by his mother, who is dying of terminal cancer, summoning a monster – a walking and talking yew tree that comes to life. The monster tells the boy that he will tell him three tales, but the boy must tell the monster a fourth tale, which is the nightmare the boy has been suffering from each night. That nightmare is of a church and graveyard falling into a massive hole, with his mother holding on to her son for dear life. This is, of course, a symbolism of the boy losing his mother to cancer. A Monster Calls treats the subject matter very well indeed: how do you cope with the forthcoming loss of your mother? It made me appreciate the 24 years I had with my mum before she passed away back in 2000. It was maybe because of this that I cried – hard – throughout the film.
A Monster Calls treats the subject matter sensitively, and is well handled: how do you cope with the forthcoming loss of your mother? It made me appreciate the 24 years I had with my mum before she passed away back in 2000. It was maybe because of this that I cried – hard – throughout the film. It brought up memories, and that as my mum started become ill and weaker, that I had to prepare for the inevitable. That sort of thing was very hard – and the film serves as a reminder for that.
The tales that the monster (which is voiced and whose motion capture performance is by Liam Neeson) tells the boy are beautiful animations that resemble watercolours – traditional fairytales but with a bit of twist to them – and that forms a relevance in the boy’s life. A Monster Calls combines fantasy and realism in such a natural manner that even you’ll forget what’s real and what’s not. A beautiful film that deserves all the praise it can get.
And finally on to Passengers. I had heard a lot about this film (none of it good). But I very much enjoyed it. It provides us with a big dilemma – if you were on a long voyage in which you had to be put into hibernation, but the system fails halfway until you get there, and you can’t go back under – what do you do? You have to live the rest of your life on the ship. This is the dilemma faced by Jim Preston, a passenger on the Avalon on the route to a new homeworld. He’s woken up 90 years too early by a fault in his hibernation pod. He’s the only human being around – the ship is fully automated (but due to damage caused by a meteor storm, various parts of the ship start to fall to bits). His only companions are an android bartender (played by Martin Sheen), and the restaurant robots. As he’s an engineer, he tries to figure out his situation – and tries to wake up the crew, but is prevented from doing so due to security barriers. After wondering through the hibernation bays (there are some 5,000 passengers in total) he comes across Aurora, a beautiful young woman. He starts to think. He’s all alone. But if he was to wake somebody, it would essentially be condemning them to death – they wouldn’t reach their destination alive, and going back to Earth would result in the same fate. I won’t go any further into the plot – but needless to say, it becomes a bit of a rollercoaster ride from that point onwards. It’s a bit like Titanic in Space meets Pixar’s Wall-E (ironically Wall-E’s composer, Thomas Newman, also scores this film). Enjoyable film.