The Lego Batman Movie 

Too good for adults and too good for kids- is what I thought at the opening of this movie. The Lego Movie was also top class for any age. Batman was arguably the best character in that movie and so him getting his own film was a no brainer. 

Lord and Miller seem to have the golden touch with their releases and as I expressed, this Batman outing is first class. 
Sooo many Injokes and background visual gags that one viewing only scratches the surface. Oh the humour at batman’s gloominess and lonely existence in his billionaires cave is hilarious. There is a wealth of extra characters from other franchises too which take a ribbing. It’s a visual feast which is almost too much as is the slightly long running time, especially for the little ones. But it’s such fun. And yes there’s a catchy earworm of a song at the end. 

The Midas touch has worked again. 

La La Land

I don’t like musicals. But I like Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone so I had to witness La La Land for myself. Gosling plays the jazz piano player hoping to open his own jazz club and Stone plays aspiring actress list in the audition process and cafe work.  

The movie features all the stuff about musicals which make my skin crawl, such as sudden singing and dancing, swinging round lampposts and synchronised footwork whilst sitting in a bench. 

And yet, I found this film so warm and charming that none of it bothers me. Like sitting in a warm bath of emotion. 

Stone shows her remarkable acting abilities as she auditions, turning from happy to upset in a fraction of moments. Gosling simmers with charisma as he follows his dream. 

The two don’t necessarily convince me as a couple to look at but again, none of that spoilt my enjoyment. Many of the scenes backdrops are picture postcard worthy and even the music actually had me getting swept along with them. 
I loved the ending too, although some audience members seemed perplexed. 

Life doesn’t always wrap up neatly and neither should movies. 
A success on my eyes.   

C Whitehouse 2017

A Monster Calls (2017)

Watching J A Bayona’s directing of A Moneter Calls had me thinking I must’ve known his work from The Babadook since the two films both centre around a single mum, a boy and illustrations. But in fact Bayona is responsible for The Orphanage not The Babadook. 

Here we find Conor (Lewis MacDougall) who is differing from a recurring nightmare of losing his mother. Sadly when he wakes up, he remembers that he really is losing his mother to a terminal illness for which the various treatments aren’t working and time is running out. Sigourney Weaver plays the grandma of the boy who is the possible future of Conor if his mother does slip away. 

Weaver plays her almost like some wicked witch and adds to Conor’s issues. As if that’s not enough he’s getting bullied at school every day. 
Whether the approaching tree giant played by Liam Neeson is an embodiment of a mental breakdown or not is unclear but the tree man says he will visit Conor four times. The first three, to tell three stories and the forth time will be for Conor to tell the truth about his nightmare. 

On first glance this looks like the BFG done for young teens as a tale of coping with cancer. 

But it’s too upsetting for children – and adults really. Felicity Jones has the role of mum in an ever diminishing image of a dying mother. 

The visuals are fantastical enough before the tales told by The Monster are illustrated in a wash of imaginative watercolours. Live action meets cgi meets animation. It’s a work of art in many ways. 

The emotional punch is something you’re constantly trying to avoid as you watch but when the end of the movie comes it’s difficult to keep your emotions in check for much longer. This film is for the child in us all as adults. The one that screams inside for their parents when times get hard. 

Impressive but tough. 

Jack Reacher 2 (2016) 

Director: Edward Zwick

Running time: 2 hours 

Cast: Tom Cruise, Cobie Smulders, Danika Yarosh. 

Lee Child’s Reacher novels do great business and even enjoy success in their fans re reading them over and over. The casting of shorty Tom Cruise playing the six foot odd tall behemoth didn’t effect my enjoyment at all since Cruise manages to play Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible really well without anyone called him tiny. Jack Reacher is slightly different to Hunt in that he is much more willing to keep his mental calculations of a situation low key. We see Reacher surrounded by thugs in an alley and he’s already predicted how the fight is likely to play out. This is similar to Sherlocks mind games but here it’s sepia toned so we understand his thoughts first rather than deeds. 

Reacher is pulled back into his past military band of brothers as a female major is suddenly thrown in jail and he smells a rat. Plus he has the additional headache of a teenage girl whose mother is claiming he is the father. 

This felt much closer to the book version as it showed more psychological mechanics than fisty cuffs , although bones do get broken along the way even after the owners are given an option to change their mind on attacking. 

I enjoyed this movie along with the first one and I liked the additional look into his mind and his emotions once the teenager appears. Action wise we have an assassin type of bad guy who is paid to silence Jack but naturally that is no easy scheme and one which results in a fight. I’ll happily watch a bunch of other sequels as long as Cruise is up for it. 


C Whitehouse 

Doctor Strange (2016) 

Director: Scott Dereckson

Running time: 2 hours

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chieetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelson, Tilda Swinton. 

The fact that Avengers Assemble worked at all was a miracle. To balance so many characters and effects with one of them being a CGI character known as The Hulk seamlessly with the other humans is just a feat of staggering proportions. Then ramping things up with Captain America The Winter Soldier through to Ant-Man, which I didn’t appreciate until third or forth viewing which led to Civil War and on it goes as I’m amazed anew. Can things get better or have we reached a summit? 


Enter Benedict Cumberbatch as big headed egotist neuroscientist Stephen Strange. Doctor Tony Stark if you will but deserving of his self belief. As origins go it’s a bit different to the merely having powers bestowed upon you. These powers are going to have to be learnt and earned. 


The Ancient One is played by Tilda Swinton who is fine because of her otherworldly looks but plays it pretty darn straight if you ask me, smug in her world weariness over years of time having passed. 

It’s no spoiler to say that this movie is about magic for the most part as Strange embraces new spells in beautifully visualised ways. That is where the movie plays its ace. The effects and designs are incredible as they take INCEPTION’s images and run with them. I found it breathtaking as its throws in 2001’s star bridge and mixes a kaleidoscope of Esher like visuals until the images represent things your tiny brain can’t fathom.  

It’s weaknesses are the standard movie complaints such as the female characters just being accessories for the males -Rachel McAdams and the villains who are in turn played by Mads Mikkelson as fallen sorcerer who is just ‘man in a bad mood’ and then the Big Bad ???? – who I won’t name, but who’s design just evokes all recent looming Marvel overlords with a deep voice. 


But I absolutely thought it was amazing. I’ve enjoyed director Scott Derrickson’s horror writings such as Sinister, Exorcism Of Emily Rose and even Deliver Is From Evil although this is worlds apart from those. I was quite shocked at how brilliant I thought it was. 


For me, this is a new high and I’m excited about where this will lead. The post credit scene did nothing to heighten that anticipation. I just thought ‘whatever’. 


So this gets a double thumbs up on all fronts and can’t wait to see it again. 


C Whitehouse 2016

Free State Of Jones (2016) 

Director: Gary Ross

Running time: 2 hours 19

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mahershala Ali, Keri Russell. 


Matthew McConaughey plays a deserter from a Confederate army who leads an uprising with a small but growing group of townsfolk. McConaughey jumps into this role utterly as he seems to do every role recently. You can see the urgency in his eyes as he dodges bullets and picks bodies off the battle field in an opening like Saving Private Ryan’s. Whilst this movie is very good it’s in the shadow of The Revenant which I felt was better still. The brutality of such old fashioned weaponry is portrayed effectively and and packs a literal punch. I felt there were pauses in parts as the story slowed and my mind wandered but McConaughey himself never misses a beat and there are other faces you may or not place who help flesh out the story to its close. A good effort but nit the best of this kind of thing currently. 


C Whitehouse 2016

Bridget Jones Baby (2016)

Director: Sharon Maguire

Running Time: 2 hours 

Cast: Renee Zellwegger, Colin Forth, Patrick Dempsey, Jim Broadbent, Emma Thompson, Gemma Jones. 


Bridget Jones returns to the big screen with a new set of problems. Life is selling her short as usual but in the space of a week she beds two men and finds herself pregnant. One of the males is an American billionaire called Jack played by Patrick Dempsey (who is 24th down the cast list on imdb) and the other is,well, Colin Firth. But who is the father of the unborn child? There you have the crux of the story but happily hanging on the bones of an idea is a very humorous and sweary story of a clumsy woman trying to juggle her work life and her new found pregnancy while dealing with various stages of pregnancy. There’s an awkwardness as Mr Darcy returns on the scene just by happenstance and rivalry between the two potential fathers raising emotions for all. While mostly funny, I also felt touched by the love for the baby angle and especially the two fathers feelings for wanting to be there for Bridget and baby. Naturally the males butt horns as the jockey for position and this echoes the first outing as well as This Means War which had two men battling over Reece Witherspoon. I was afraid that this may be fluffy girly nonsense but it isn’t that at all. I enjoyed Bridget’s company and her accent was surprisingly good too. It felt good to see the female take on the role of the hapless lead rather than the male and although it runs the same confident path of a Richard Curtis movie, it never went saccharine. In short, I can’t knock it. I’d happily sit through another like that but not like the second Bridget Jones. Supporting cast such as Emma Thompson, Jim Broadbent, Gemma Jones and Shirley Henderson also make this an easy watch whether you’ve been dying to watch it or are simply being pulled along. 


C Whitehouse . 2016

Kubo and the two strings (2016) 

Director: Travis Knight

Running time: 1 hour 45 mins

Cast: Art Parkinson, Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes, Rooney Mara, Charlize Theron. 


Laika studios have done it again. After the wobble (in my opinion) that was The Boxtrolls, the magic is captured again as this far eastern flavoured tale of a split apart family, delights both the eye and heart. 

The boy Kubo learns he must acquire a magical armour if he is to survive his aunts and grandfather as they seek his other eye, the first which they took when he was a baby. That brings me to the darkness at its heart and it’s been the same since Coraline where eyes were swapped for buttons. 

It’s as though these films are made for adults who are kids at heart firstly and then made acceptable for young ones to view if they can handle it. 

The use of origami is masterful and no doubt painstakingly recreated. The Laika humour is peppered throughout and is brilliantly delivered by Matthew McConaughey, Ralph Fiennes and Charlize Theron and not forgetting Art Parkinson as Kubo. 

The evil aunt sisters are voiced by Rooney Mara and are like something from Clive Barkers horror novels. 

In short I loved it. But I still love Paranorman and Coraline more. 

The themes of death and revenge are not played for a kiddie crowd but delivered in black and white touching any audience member who has dealt with a dying family member and bringing tears of understanding. 

Just a beautifully constructed piece of storytelling and yet one that the whole family will take something from. 


C Whitehouse 2016