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  • "J. Edgar"
  • "Jack Reacher"
  • "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"
  • "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
  • "Jackie"
  • "Jason Bourne"
  • "Jobs"
  • "Joe"
  • "John Carter"
  • "John Wick"
  • "John Wick: Chapter 2"
  • "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum"
  • "John Wick: Chapter 4"
  • "Johnny English"
  • "Jojo Rabbit"
  • "Joker"
  • "Joy"
  • "The Joy Luck Club"
  • "Judas And The Black Messiah"
  • "The Judge"
  • "Judy"
  • "Julie & Julia"
  • "Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle"
  • "Jumanji: The Next Level"
  • "Julieta"
  • "The Jungle Book"
  • "Juno"
  • "Jupiter Ascending"
  • "Jurassic Park III"
  • "Jurassic World"
  • "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"
  • "Jurassic World Dominion"
  • "Just One Day"
  • "Justice League"

  • "J. Edgar"

    John Edgar Hoover founded the Federal Bureau of Investigation and led it in megalomaniac style until his death. This account of his career and speculation of his private life is a dark movie on so many levels. It deals with serious criminality ranging from mobsters to kidnappers to spies; it portrays a FBI that tramples over human rights and itself spies on citizens; it is a portrait of a man who effectively blackmailed presidents but hid his own sexual tendencies; and the whole thing is shot in bleached-out colours and endless shadows.

    It is an ambitious project for producer and director Clint Eastwood, who has tackled the bio-pic before with "Bird", and writer Dustin Lance Black, who scripted the bio-pic "Milk", since they cover the huge period from the Palmer Raids of 1919 to Hoover's death in 1972 in a series of flash backs involving multiple characters which makes it hard work for the viewer. Of course, it is an even tougher enterprise for Leonardo DiCaprio who has to portray the eponymous and complex FBI chief as he ages half a century. DiCaprio is a fine actor who has come along way since "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" in 1993 and he too has done the bio-pic thing before ("THe Aviator") and is quite well deserved by his prosthetics (which one cannot say for Armie Hammer as Hoover's No 2 at the Bureau Clyde Tolson).

    So this is a fascinating film but it lacks a narrative thrust and real drama or excitement.

    Link: Wikipedia page on Hoover click here

    "Jack Reacher"

    I haven't read any of the 17 Jack Reacher novels written by the British Jim Grant under the pseudonym Lee Child, so it was no bother to me that the 5' 7" Tom Cruise did not match up to the 6' 5" character of the books. Whatever one says about Cruise, he is still looking good and has genuine star appeal. Writer and director Christopher McQuarrie has produced a fast and often violent film with implausible plotting but pace and verve. From the tense opening segment of a sniper attack in Pittsburgh, this is a work with style if little substance, aided by some good support performances from Werner Herzog and Robert Duvall. Like a Clint Eastwood character in the likes of "High Plains Drifter", Reacher appears from nowhere and disappears to nowhere, but Cruise and Child are no doubt hoping that this is the start of a new franchise and, in sheer entertainment terms, I wouldn't mind a return.

    "Jack Reacher: Never Go Back"

    The original Jack Reacher movie in 2012, starring Tom Cruise in the eponymous role, was not a huge box office success but it did reasonably and clocked up a lot more revenue in the home entertainment market. I certainly found it enjoyable enough to welcome a return of the Lee Child creation of an American former military policeman who now lives off the grid and four years later Jack is back with a new director (Edward Zwick) and a new scriptwriter (Richard Wenk). It is a well-paced thriller with lots of action interleaved with appropriate pauses to catch breath. What gives this Reacher movie a different feel is that the ex military cop is supported by a very capable (and attractive) army major (played by the former model Cobie Smulders) with the involvement of a young girl who may be related to Reacher (the promising Danika Yarosh). This Cruise franchise will never rival the "Mission: Impossible" series but will quietly satisfy the actor's many fans.

    "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"

    Tom Clancy has written a whole series of books with CIA analyst Jack Ryan as his hero and this is the fifth occasion that the spy has appeared in films with Chris Pine now the fourth actor to take on the role. This 2014 offering was an attempt - which didn't work - to reboot the franchise with something of an origin story. So after his military service and recruitment into the Agency, he finds himself on his first overseas mission, a trip to Moscow to discover the nefarious plans of oligarch Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh who also directs). The problem is that, as conceived in the novels, Ryan is a man who uses his brain more than his brawn, but here he miracuously acquires the sort of fighting, jumping and driving skills than we associate with Jason Bourne and indeed the whole movie looks like a Bourne imitation but with weaker plotting.


    Israeli-born actress Natalie Portman has come a long way since her amazing performance as a young girl in the thriller "Leon", winning an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in "Black Swan". In this film, she portrays Jacqueline Kennedy in the days between the assassination and funeral of her husband, US President John F Kennedy, in 1963. It is an exceptional representation, affecting the unusual voice of her subject and communicating the horror and pain of the First Lady's experience and her determination to have the funeral she thought appropriate.

    This is the first English-language film from Chilean director Pablo Larrain and it is a respectful if, ultimately (and perhaps inevitably), cold work with Mica Levi's discordant score adding to the sense of alienation. As Jackie tells the reporter whose interview is the framing device for the film: "Don't let it be forgot, that for one brief, shining moment there was a Camelot."

    "Jason Bourne"

    The three original Bourne movies - "Identity" (2002), "Supremacy" (2004) and "Ultimatum" (2007) - became bigger and better with the charismatic Matt Damon in the title role and, for the last two segments, the accomplished British director Paul Greengrass creating a brilliantly frenetic style of shooting. It looked as if the franchise had neatly run its course and those of us who loved the combination of Damon and Greengrass had the pleasure of "Green Zone" (2010). However, Universal studios needed to produce another Bourne movie if they were to retain the rights and offered up "Legacy" (2012) which, despite not having Damon on board, was surprisingly good.

    Menwhile Damon and Greengrass, who repeatedly said that they would never return to the series, found real-world events involving the likes of Julian Assange and Edward Snowden so compelling that irrestistibly they have been drawn back together to give us a fifth film in the franchise (Greengrass also co-wrote the script). And it is vintage Bourne with the same winning ingredients: a variety of urban locations, insistent score, frenzied cutting, visceral action, long chases and a storyline that - while incredible - is disturbingly contemporary. The only reason it does not rate more highly is that essentially we have seen it all before.

    But there are fewer words from Bourne and there are some new characters who are well-played: CIA Director Robert Dewey (craggy Tommy Lee Jones), Agency specialist Heather Lee (the Swedish actress du jour Alicia Vikander), and "the asset" (French actor Vincent Cassel). And there are some new locations: riot-fuelled Athens (actually shot in Tenerife) and car-smashed Las Vegas. Matt Damon was just 30 when he first took on the role and he is now 45 but I wouldn't be surprised if he (and hopefully Vikander) are back.


    Mark Zuckerberg is to Facebook what Steve Jobs was to Apple - the college drop-out who became the founding genius of one of the absolute giants of the new information age, a brilliant mind, a compulsive personality and a ruthless entrepreneur. In the case of Zuckerberg, all this was superbly represented in the 2010 movie "The Social Network" - a work which set the bar really high for a bio-pic of an IT guru. I'm afraid that the 2013 "Jobs", while a workmanlike film, cannot compare. "TSN" had a bigger budget ($40M compared to $12M) but more importantly it had a much better scriptwriter (Aaron Sorkin rather than first-timer Matt Whiteley). The box office takings reflected the different budgets and talents.

    "Jobs" focuses on the early years of Apple, so we witness the Apple, Apple II and Mackintosh computers and the iPod but not the iPhone or iPad. And there is nothing about the man's illness and death. Instead the core of the movie is his expulsion from Apple in 1985 and his return in 1996. This makes for some drama but overall the film is slow and pedestrian compared to the pacing and excitement of "TSN". Ashton Kutcher is creditable in the lead role - he adopts the facial features and the gait of the man - and many of the supporting characters look quite like the real-life men (there are very few women around) that they portray, but much of the acting is as weak as most of the script.


    In 1971, there was an American movie called "Joe" set in New York City and state in which a couple of ordinary 'joes' (one is actually called Joe), resenting the liberal society in which they find themselves, turn to appalling violence. Now (2014), we have another American film with the same title with a story that is almost as depressing and almost as violent as again a joe - both in character and name - finds himself turning to brutal action for what he judges to be a rightous cause. This time the director is David Gordon Green who films Larry Brown's novel in a very male, dirt poor, hard-drinking world around Austin in Texas.

    In a slow-moving and atmospheric tale, Joe befriends a 15 year old Gary who is abused by his drunken father. This is an outstanding central performance from Nicolas Cage who keeps his trademark histrionics under control here. But the two other lead roles are played by interesting characters. Gary is ably portrayed by young Tye Sheridan who, after both "Tree Of Life" and "Mud", is beginning to make a name for himself. Then the violent father is represented by a complete non-professional: Gary Poulter, a homeless man who died on the streets shortly after the film was finished. This is art imitating life imitating art.

    "John Carter"

    This is a film adaptation of a science fiction novel written by Edgar Rice Burroughs a hundred years ago. Was it worth the wait? Well, it has enabled state of the art special effects to be deployed in a movie estimated to cost some $250 million to produce and the creatures and features on display are impressive. I saw the work in 3D on an IMAX screen and, while I certainly felt part of the action, I can't say that the 3D added much most of the time.

    Canadian Taylor Kitsch plays the eponymous former Confederate soldier who suddenly finds himself transported to Mars - or, as the locals call it, Barsoom. In his previous film "The Bang Bang Club", Kitsch portrayed another character called Carter with long hair and a beard so maybe he just walked off one set and into another, although in this role he has extraordinary powers of jumping. Some of his co-stars - notably Willem Dafoe and Samantha Morton - are unrecognisable since they play CGI-created aliens, while many of the others - such as Mark Strong, Ciarán Hinds, Dominic West and James Purefoy - are stalwarts of British cinema and television.

    There are three tribes on Mars: citizens of warring Zodanga and Helium, who inexplicably look just like humans, and the exceptionally tall, thin, green, four-armed Tharks who look like cousins of Jar Jar Binks from the "Star Wars" series (indeed so much of "John Carter" is derivative of "Star Wars", although defenders of the film will point that that the Burroughs novel long preceded the George Lucas movies). A fair bit of the time, I had no clear idea what these characters were up to and why but the whole thing was a visual treat that does not bear any serious analysis.

    "John Wick"

    James Bond, Jack Bauer, Jason Bourn, Jack Reacher, John Carter, and now John Wick. It seems that writers have limited imaginations when it comes to the names of their action heroes except that, in this case, Derek Kolstad - who came up with the idea and wrote the script - took the name from his grandfather. JW is a retired assassin and we all know that, in the movies, it doesn't take much to bring a man with "a very particular set of skills" back into the game. Kidnapping his daughter usually does it but, if you want to be sure, kill his dog. This really makes Wick (Keanu Reeves back on cracking form) mad. Of course, we knew who the bad guys were even before their mistake with the mutt because they speak Russian and the subtitles are presented in comic book style to add to the fun.

    There's minimal plot but maximum action in this film directed by Chad Stahelski (Keanu's stunt double in "The Matrix") and David Leitch (another veteran stunt coordinator). Wick is not out simply to disable his foes but instead rarely leaves death in doubt and he is no silent killer but absolutely litters the screen in bodies in a riot of action and noise that somehow escapes the notice of the New York Police Department. According to those who count these things, the original "Taken" movie clocked up a body count of 35 but Wick racks up a much superior 77. I saw the movie on an IMAX screen so I was both shaken and stirred.

    "John Wick: Chapter 2"

    The original "John Wick" was so commercially successful - it made $89M on a budget of $20M - that a sequel was bound to follow and this time we are set up for a third movie in this new, and possibly long-running, franchise. We have the same director Chad Stahelski, the same writer Derek Kolstad, and of course the same actor Keanu Reeves in the eponymous role as a hit man who is trying to retire but finding that ending his career requires ending one hell of a load of lives.

    The story begins four days after the events of the first film with a cracking opening sequence as Wick retrieves his car. This time though, not all the action is in New York with a tough mission in Rome. And not all the characters are men with a victim and an assassin proving that women are not always the fairer sex. As before, the killing is ludicrously frenetic and wholesale but it is all done with style, often in locations involving tunnels and mirrors and lights so that it looks exciting. And, according to one student of the franchise, the number of kills this time is an incredible 128.

    "John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum"

    The word 'parabellum' is Latin for 'prepare for war' and also a calibre of bullet so, even if you haven't seen the previous two films in the franchise, as long as you understand the title of this movie, you'll know what to expect. In fact, John Wick has now become a well-known action hero and the franchise has built up a growing following so viewers know exactly what to expect and they will not be disappointed.

    Like any successful entry in a popular franchise, you have all the elements of the original movie - most notably scene after scene of wonderfully staged and choreographed slaughter of anyone seeking to block or take out the eponymous and mythic hitman - with the return of some familiar characters, some new characters, a new location, a developing plot, and many more bodies.

    The story picks up just 45 minutes after the conclusion of the previous chapter and the pace is unrelenting. Mostly we're still in New York but there is a foray to Casablanca. New characters include The Adjudicator from The High Table who serves up punishment on anyone who helps Wick (non-binary actor Asia Kate Dillon), a one-time colleague of Wick and accomplished assassin Sofia (an excellent Halle Berry), and an ultra-destructive team led by Zero (martial artist Mark Dacascos) whose two side-kicks are played by real-life champion kickboxers who starred in "The Raid" movies.

    There is nothing subtle about a John Wick movie. It is always utterly over-the-top and at times knowingly comical but, for mindless entertainment of a certain sort, this is a franchise on a roll that deservedly will be around for a while longer. And, why not? We all need a bit of escapism sometimes. Oh, for the record, one estimate of this film's body count is a reduced 94.

    "John Wick: Chapter 4"

    Oh my, what a blast. If you enjoyed the previous John Wick movies, you're gonna love this.

    Former kickboxer and former stuntman Chad Stahelski once again directs this latest contribution to an action hero franchise that continues to be both popular and profitable. Keanu Reeves is back as our suited, laconic, titular assassin, a one-man killing machine, seemingly indestructible whether pummelled, slashed, shot or simply knocked down an endless flights of steps. This time, he takes on the High Table big-time in the form of the Marquis de Gramont (Bill Skarsgård), but there are plenty of other formidable opponents, such as the blind Caine (Donnie Yen) and the huge Killa (Scott Adkins).

    As we've come to expect, the work is endlessly stylish, as one thrilling action sequence follows another with dramatic sets, splendid choreography and raucous music. There's usually neon lights or falling water or lights and water and there's always bodies, dead bodies, lots and lots of them. The action moves from New York to Morocco with long sequences in Osaka, Berlin and Paris. There are some fabulous sequences, including a one-shot, bird's-eye perspective of murder and mayhem.

    Of course, it's too long - almost three hours - but this seems to be almost standard for 'big' movies these days. Of course, it's utterly over-the top, but this is what Wick's fans expect and want. It is just so mindlessly entertaining. This time, stay to the very end: for the first time in a Wick film, there is a clip after the credits

    I always finish my review of a John Wick movie with an estimate of the death toll. This one sets a new record score: 140.

    "Johnny English"

    Mr Bean meets Mr Bond and the result is "Laugh Another Day". Rowan Atkinson can be very funny, as we saw in his 1997 beanfeast. The trouble with this movie is that, 40 years after the first 007 outing, Bond has been parodied to death. What was funny for 60 seconds in a television advertisement for Barclaycard cannot be sustained for a full-length movie and most of the jokes are signposted well in advance. Natalie Imbruglia gives the impression of having wandered off the set of an Aussie soap (what do you mean, she has?), while John Malkovich looks squint-eyed and affects the most appalling French accent, because "The Wonk Is Not Enough".

    "Jojo Rabbit"

    When "Jojo Rabbit" was released at the cinema, I had no wish to see it - for me the idea of a Hitler comedy is an oxymoron. But the film received some excellent reviews and proved popular with viewers. Then I found myself in lockdown during the coronavirus crisis of 2020 and, with little else new to watch, I decided to give it a go.

    Although it is based on a novel, the film is very much the creation of New Zealand comedian Taika Waititi, who is part Maori and a bit Jewish, since he wrote and directed it as well as playing the role of Adolf Hitler as the imaginary friend of the eponymous 10 year old German boy (a remarkable performance by the British Roman Griffin Davis in his first professional role). I can see what Waititi was trying to do - present a parody of Nazism and anti-semitism - but I'm afraid it just doesn't work for me. I found it silly, sentimental, surreal - but never convincing. You might feel differently.


    How did Arthur Fleck become the arch-villain of Gotham City the Joker? What were the events that led to the child Bruce Wayne - later to become Batman - witnessing the murder of his parents? This movie - brilliantly directed, co-written and co-produced by Todd Phillips - provides answers to these questions in what is perhaps the best cinematic work of the DC Universe.

    At the pulsating heart of the film is Joaquin Phoenix in the eponymous role. Now we've seen some superlative portrayals of the Joker on the big screen - Jack Nicholson in "Batman" (1989) and Heath Ledger in "The Dark Knight" (2008) - but here Phoenix is simply mesmerising in a role which he totally inhabits and for which he lost an incredible amount of weight. Every movement and every line is compelling and distinctive. As he managed to do in "Gladiator", Phoenix somehow contrives to make the viewer understand and even sympathise with a complex character denied love.

    The supporting actors - most obviously Robert de Niro - are uniformly convincing, the rendition of Gotham City is captivating, and the sound and music gripping in a film that scores on every front. This is a work that will not appeal to everyone, given the dark material and its occasional but brutal violence, but deservedly it has garnered many award nominations including an Academy Award win for Phoenix.


    A movie written and directed by David O Russell and starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper - a trio involved in the wonderful "Silver Linings Playbook" and "American Hustle" - is one to excite any cinema-goer and, as the cast list also includes such veteran actors as Robert De Niro and Isabella Rossellini, expectations were understandably high. But sadly the film is a disappointment and only the ever-watchable and immensely talented Lawrence in the central role ensures that it does not receive a more challenging assessment.

    The title refers not to an emotion but to a person, the American entrepreneur Joy Mangano. and the movie is a worthy attempt to show how women can be empowered and inventive if they pursue their dreams with passion and support. Perhaps any film about the design of a mop - even a so-called Miracle Mop that sold in huge numbers on the television channel QVC - was going to struggle to seize the emotions (after all, we are not talking about "The Social Network" and the creation of Facebook here). But the work suffers from an odd structure - there are early flashbacks and the voice-over is from someone who dies - and a weak script. So, really not much joy at all.

    "The Joy Luck Club"

    This is an ambitious and worthy film that unfortunately comes near to collapsing under the weight of its multiple storylines. Four Chinese women recall their brutal lives back in the feudal homeland and then their Chinese-American daughters are shown clashing with their mothers in modern-day California. Taken from the novel by Amy Tan and co-written by her for the screen, the movie tries to cover too much and as a result engages too little, although it is refreshing to observe a different culture and view new actresses.

    "Judas And The Black Messiah"

    This is a true story set in Chicago in the late 1960s. This was an especially terrible time to be a protestor - particularly a black protestor - in the United States as previously set out in films like "Detroit" and "The Trial Of The Chicago 7". In this case, the messiah is the Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP), the young, charismatic agitator Fred Hampton, while his nemesis is equally young black petty criminal Bill O'Neal who agreed to infiltrate the BPP to escape a jail sentence.

    British actor Daniel Kaluuya plays Hampton. We already knew that he was a fine performer as shown in such work as "Get Out" and "Queen & Slim", but here he is simply outstanding, by turns mesmerisingly vocal and tenderly caring. In a deeply unsympathetic role, Lakeith Stanfield ("Get Out" and "Knives Out") is utterly convincing as the informer who is himself a victim of the corrupt criminal justice system.

    The film was co-written, produced and directed by Shaka King whose heritage is largely from Panama and whose upbringing was in diverse neighbourhoods in New York. It is only his second feature film - the first was eight years earlier - and represents a triumph that will rightly win many awards. In the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, its release is so timely and so relevant. Hampton's partner and son were both consultants on the film which gives it added authenticity.

    I only have two reservations about this wonderful movie: one continual and the other occasional. The first is that the dialogue and its delivery are so authentic that an older white Britisher like me could not catch it all. The second is the odd casting of Martin Sheen as FBI director J Edgar Hoover which involves distracting prosthetics.

    Most true life films finish with some text explaining what happened afterwards. In this case, there is even more text than usual plus some amazing archive footage. Be sure not to miss it.

    "The Judge"

    I'm happy to see my share of action-packed, effects-laden blockbusters, but what a pleasure it is to experience a film like "The Judge": a work that is character-driven, that has a fine script, and that boasts a cast list headed by two of the most distinguished actors of their respective generations. Robert Duvall is Joseph Palmer, the eponymous by-the-book judge, who has presided for ever over a court in rural Indiana. His middle son Hank, played by Robert Downey Jr, is a hot-shot, take-no-prisoners defence attorney in Chicago who is forced to return to his hometown when his mother dies.

    To say that the Palmer family is dysfunctional is an understatement. As Hank puts it: "This family's a fucking Picasso painting." But director David Dobkin, who co-conceived the story, and scriptwriters Nick Schenk and Bill Dubuque take their time with a slow reveal, only gradually sketching out the background of the Palmer family and associated characters. It makes for compelling viewing and, when the end comes, it is not one of universal happiness but it is up-lifting.

    Duval and Downey are terrific but there are also some excellent support performances from the likes of Billy Bob Thornton and Vera Farmiga. This accomplished work manages to be an examination of both a fractured family and a flawed legal system and is highly recommended.


    The wonderful but tragic singer and actress Judy Garland died of an accidental overdose in London in the summer of 1969 aged just 47. Six months before, she had topped the bill in the city's "Talk Of The Town" with a troubled performance and this British film - based on a stage play - is about that fixture with some flash-backs to her youth showing how, from the very beginning, she was manipulated and controlled. Renée Zellweger is outstanding in the eponymous role and sings all the numbers herself, while an able support cast includes Jessie Buckley as her local aide Rosalyn and Finn Wittrock as her fifth husband Mickey.

    "Julie & Julia"

    Julie Powell is a New York blogger who in 2002 decides to write about how she plans to cook all 524 dishes in a famous American cookbook of French food over the course - sorry for the pun - of 365 days. She is played by the amiable Amy Adams. Julia Child is the larger than life co-author of the book which was published in 1961 after many years of effort only to become a US classic. She is portrayed by the wonderful Meryl Streep in yet another marvellous performance. Nora Ephron - who gave us "Sleepless In Seattle" and "You've Got Mail" - is both screenwriter and director.

    Now I know nothing about cooking, but I am both a blogger and an author so I could identify to some extent with the main characters can see how these true-life intertwined narratives could work well in writing (the blog actually became a book and the cookbook led to an autobiography) and indeed the movie frequently quotes from blog postings and letters. As a two-hour film though, there is simply not enough dramatic material or plot development to make a meal of a movie and the two hours rather drag.

    Julie Powell''s original blog click here
    Julie Powell's current blog click here


    Gay Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar loves working with beautiful women and offers them some powerful roles. Here two wonderful actresses play the same eponymous character: Adriana Ugarte as the younger, more care-free woman and Emma Suárez as the older, grief-ridden mother trying to come to terms with the sudden disappearance of a loved one (the transition between the two is cleverly executed). Based on three short stories by the Canadian writer Alice Munro (which I have read), the narrative is transposed to Spain and this gives the viewer some wonderful colours and landscapes, but ultimately the emotions explored are universal.

    "Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle"

    This is an action comedy with equal parts adventure and humour providing appeal to a wide age range of viewers. Four American teenagers on detention are sucked into an old video game where they find themselves inhabiting avatars with special skills but very different personalities (and, in once case, gender) than their real selves with lots of opportunities for personal growth. It's all very predictable (spoiler alert: the nerd gets the girl), but it works well, which is largely attributable to the very varied styles of each of the lead characters, both from each other and from his or her out-of-game self. So credit to Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, diminutive comic Kevin Hart, gender-bending Jack Black, and Britain's own Karen Gillan.

    "Jumanji: The Next Level"

    In a moderately successful sequel to "Welcome To The Jungle", three years later we find the same four youngsters - plus two new characters played by Danny DeVito and Danny Glover (both actors now in their 70s) - interactiong with the same video game through the same four avatars (again represented by Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan) - plus a new avatar in the form of Awkwafina. Again the action comedy is a lot of fun but, with the original avatars now inhabited by different real-life characters and some switching back and forth of persons and avatars, it is sometimes a bit confusing.

    "The Jungle Book"

    When I offered to take my niece Saskia (almost 13) out for the afternoon, she suggested that we see the Walt Disney remake of "The Jungle Book" which was such a success for the company in 1967. It proved to be a splendid choice. Director Jon Faveau has produced a work to delight all ages. The film only has one human performer: Indian-American child actor Neel Sethi who is cute but otherwise unexceptional as the man-cub Mowgli. The real stars are the animals, who are brilliantly realised by superb CGI, and the well-known actors voicing the animals, including Idris Elba (Shere Khan the tiger), Bill Murray (Baloo the bear), Ben Kingsley (Bagheera the panther), Scarlett Johansson (Kaa the snake) and Christopher Walken (King Louie the king of the apes). There are fewer songs in this remake (just three), but they include my favourite, "I Wanna Be Like You", and feature both in the narrative and in the credits. In short, a Shere delight.


    An unusual title for an unusual movie but one that is an absolute delight. Juno is a 16 year old girl living in Minnesota, USA who is named after a Roman goddess and she is played by 20 year old Canadian Ellen Page in a wonderfully mature and quirky performance that achieved an Academy Award nomination. Early on in the film, she becomes pregnant and the rest of the story is how she - and her parents and the intended adopted parents of the baby - deal with the situation. J K Simmons, Allison Janney, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner bring real texture to the adult roles.

    The witty script is a cracking one and comes from Diablo Cody, a pen name for one-time stripper Brook Busey, and it won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Shooting was in and around Vancouver, standing in for Minnesota, and the tiny budget of US$6.5 million was recouped within three weeks of (limited) release. Personally I could have done without the songs from Kimya Dawson, but in fact the soundtrack was very successful in its own right.

    The director is Canadian-born Jason Reitman whose father Ivan directed such movies as "Ghostbusters".

    "Jupiter Ascending"

    This ought to have been promising: a science fiction film (one of my favourite genres), written, produced and directed by Andy & Lana Wachowski (who gave us "The Matrix" trilogy), with some acting talent including Mila Kunis (as the titular Jupiter Jones), Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean. But it is a galactic mess of a movie: visually frenetic but with a plot and dialogue that are out of this world (in a bad way).

    "Jurassic Park III"

    Just when you knew that it still wasn't safe to visit the island - some fool does so. Following in the dinosaur footsteps of the earlier two movies in 1993 and 1997, a new cohort of youngsters can thrill to the brilliant special effects - especially since this one is rated PG. For the lead character, its back to the original film with Sam Neill as Dr Alan Grant and there's even brief appearances from his colleague at that time, played by Laura Dern. However, the real 'stars', as always, are the creatures themselves and - as before - we have a mixture of old and new, the latter this time being represented by something called the spinosaurus and the winged pterodactyls. There's no plot and the ending is surprisingly sudden and weak, but this won't worry the kids and, at a mere one and a half hours, it's the perfect afternoon's entertainment for them.

    "Jurassic World"

    It seems that you can't keep a good monster story down, so we've had remakes of "King Kong" and "Godzilla" and returns to the dinosaurs as the blockbuster "Jurassic Park" (1993) was followed by the less successful "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" (1997) and then by the rather tame "Jurassic Park III" (2001) before - after an interval of 14 years - we now have the spectacular "Jurassic World" which managed to take half a billion dollars at the box office on its opening weekend. How can we explain this?

    Obviously part of the answer has to be the dinosaurs themselves. This time, we have the biggest, baddest, most modified of them all: Indominus rex who features in a "containment anomaly" (will they never learn?). But we also have the interesting dynamic of dinosaurs who can relate to humans and even protect them. So many creature movies - whether it's the "King Kong" ones or "The Planet Of The Apes" franchise or even "Ted" and "Paddington" - play with the notions that the animals are not so different from us and, especially in the case of the human villains, that some of us are not so different from some of them.

    Another part of the film's success has to be related to the actors. Almost overnight Chris Pratt has become such an appealing box office star with his voice in "The Lego Movie" and his heroics in "Guardian Of The Galaxy", while Bryce Dallas Howard (the daughter of director Ron Howard) is a welcome fresh face who can convincingly kick some dinosaur ass even while never giving up her high heels. Finally we get more gore this time around. In one memorable sequence, a poor woman is grabbed by one flying dinosaur and then snatched by another which in turn is then gobbled up by an even bigger one. So no real plot and the usual stereotypical characters, but more bite for your buck in this exciting and well-paced adventure.

    "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom"

    The reboot of the "Jurassic Park" franchise in the shape of "Jurassic World" was such a box office success than a sequel - the fifth dino rampage - was inevitable and, while this has not thrilled the critics, it will do well enough with the fans of the monster genre because it is genuinely entertaining. Indeed it makes a real effort to take the franchise in a new direction. First, it reverses the jeopardy: instead of humans being in danger from the reconstituted dinosaurs, now the creatures themselves are threatened both by nature and greed. Second, the island of Isla Nublar is the scene of a spectacular volcanic explosion and ironically the release of the film coincided with the horror of the Fuego volcano in Guatemala. Third, half of the movie takes place not on the island but on the mainline and, at the very end of the credits, a clip of Las Vegas makes clear that, from now on, the action is going to be much closer to home.

    Chris Pratt - whose career continues to soar - is back as Owen Grady, a kind of modern-day Indiana Jones, and so is Bryce Dallas Howard as Claire Dearing, but she has left her heels behind and has changed her attitude to the creatures. They are joined by two young members of the rescue team with newcomers Daniella Pineda and Justice Smith adding to the demographic appeal of the film, and there is even a plucky little girl (although the rating of the work - at times gory - should preclude her peers from seeing this adventure). Plus the wonderful Jeff Goldblum - last seen in the franchise almost 20 years ago - returns in a cameo with the best lines. And the empathetic raptor Blue is back and it must be admitted that her character is more nuanced than the raft of human baddies who are classic caricatures.

    "Jurassic World Dominion"

    After the "Jurassic Park" trilogy, we now have the third (and final?) segment of the "Jurassic World" three-hander. Unlike all the other movies in this franchise, none of the action is on the island of Isla Nublar. Now all the dinosaurs are running round continental America and Europe and the genetic playing of the wicked corporation is producing new creatures such as giant locusts. Such a challenge, it seems, can only be met by bringing together all the heroes of the franchise, a bit like a Marvel movie.

    So, as well as Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) from the previous episodes of "Jurassic World" and a return by Ian Malcom (the scene-stealing Jeff Goldblum) who was brought back for the last movie, we have both Alan Grant (Sam Neill) and Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) whom we haven't seen for more than 20 years. And, to balance all these older and white characters, we have the addition of some young and ethnic players. Indeed the whole narraive is opened up with action scenes on Malta and in markets and aircraft that remind one sometimes of "Star Wars" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark".

    So, there's a lot going on here and some of it is fun but, at almost two and a half hours, it is way too long and the concluding shots - of prehistoric and contemporary wildlife gambolling together - rather defeats the overall theme that dinosaurs are, well, scary.

    "Just One Day"

    In its home territory of the United States, this movie is called "At Middleton" since it is located at a college called Middleton, but this is a singularly unhelpful title and around the world there have been many variations. In the UK, where I viewed it, it is called "Just One Day" which has the benefit of telling the potential viewer something relevant. So, by now, you'll have worked out that all the film is located in one place and over one day. Although the purpose of the visit is to enable two youngsters to assess whether they wish to study at this particular college, the core of the story is about their parents played by Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga who soon give up on their kids and the official tour and make their own explorations of both the grounds and their emotions. It's kind of updated version of the classic British film "Brief Encounter" (1945).

    It's an episodic movie with a lot of humour and some pathos but some scenes work better than others. The cleverest scene is when the two adults find themselves required to participate in an improvisation acting class. The silliest is when they get high on a marijuana bong. What makes the work rather charming is the warmth of the two leads. Garcia never seems to have quite fulfilled the early potential shown as long ago as 1987 in "The Untouchables" and has put on a bit of weight since, but he is still a fine actor. The much younger Vera Farmiga - there is a 17 year age difference between the pair - first came to my attention in "Up In The Air (2009) and to my mind is still not fully appreciated for her talent and rare beauty (those blue eyes). Incidentally this movie is a bit of a family affair with Garcia's daughter playing a minor role and Farmiga's sister filling the role of her daughter.

    "Justice League"

    This is a movie which has divided the professional critics and the general public with the former being hard on the work but the latter generally enjoying it. I confess that my feelings fall somewhere between the two. It seems that DC Comics just cannot replicate the success of Marvel Universe's Avengers.

    Superman is dead but the Earth is under great threat and so Batman and Wonder Woman put together a league of superheroes, adding Aquaman, Cyborg, and the Flash to the team facing somebody called Steppenwolf. The movie has considerable visual appeal with a whole variety of locations and worlds and lots of crashing action, but the plot is weak - yet again a small number of objects of great power which must not be brought together - and the characters (too many of them) are of variable impact.

    Ben Affleck is dull as Batman, never achieving Christian Bale's convincing portrayal of the role, and it is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman - fresh from her success in her stand-alone appearance - who is the most appealing character, not least because we know so little of the back story of the other three league members. As for the huge and ugly villain Steppenwolf, he is just like so many other sci-fi bad guys and his entourage of flying warriors looks too much like the monkeys in "The Wizard Of Oz".

    The film had a troubled production with original director Zack Snyder - who helmed "Man Of Steel" and "Batman vs Superman" - having to step aside and leaving the final shooting to Joss Wheldon. This mixed heritage is combined with a confusion of tone with the work unsure whether it wants to be as serious as the previous two films or more comedic in the vein of "Guardians Of The Galaxy". There are extra scenes at the very beginning and the very end of the credits.

    All reviews by ROGER DARLINGTON.

    Last modified on 11 May 2024

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