Eddie The Eagle

Director: Dexter Fletcher (2016)

This slushy sports biopic of an amateur ski jumper chasing his Olympic dream fails to fly.

The sentimental tone is light but the humour lands as heavily as its hero, but with far less frequency and grace.

A gurning Taron Egerton captures the spirit of of Eddie ‘The Eagle’ Edwards in all his gormless glory.

He’s a teetotal, socially awkward, bespectacled sporter of alarming knit wear. The possessor of a chin the late Jimmy Hill would be proud of.

After Eddie suffered a childhood illness, doctors told him he shouldn’t play sport.

So with an Alp sized chip on his shoulder, this otherwise very ordinary bloke is driven to become an Olympian to prove them wrong.

He’s not fussy about at which sport he fails at so plumbs for the ski-jump.

With no other British competitor in the field it gives him the best chance of qualifying for the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics.

In a less than olympic effort from the IOC, also on the same bill were the Jamaican bobsled team who inspired the film Cool Runnings (1993).

It was watching that film which inspired producer Matthew Vaughn to tackle this project. Egerton also starred and more successfully in Vaughn’s sexist spy caper Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015).

The obstacles littering Eddie’s way are a lack of finance, ability and parental support.

Plus he must face down mockery from fellow competitors and institutional bullying from Tim McInnerny’s snooty British Olympocrat.

The story turns into an odd couple comedy when he teams up with a fictional coach called Bronson Peary.

Aussie charmer Hugh Jackman plays disgraced former ski star turned cynical alcoholic.

Eddie’s no chicken and lacks a fear of heights. Headless on the slopes, he’s too dim to be wary of the potential lethal nature of the sport.

Adding to this lack of heroism is the knowledge he can’t win, so there’s nothing at stake and no drama.

Actor turned director Dexter Fletcher made the feel good musical Sunshine On Leith (2014) but can’t make this material lift off.

He does a great job of conveying the awe inducing spectacle of the slopes but it’s downhill in all other aspects.

When even the presence of reliable old stager Jim Broadbent can’t raise a smile, your film really is in trouble.

Christopher Walken wanders in very late in the games as ski guru Warren Sharp and looks as comfortable in his surroundings as Eddie does on the slopes.

Dialogue stresses Eddie’s reservations about appearing in the media spotlight. This is at odds with the real life footage shown at the film’s end of Eddie taking a very public bow at the closing ceremony.

And Edwards hasn’t been slow to exploit the media invented nickname of ‘Eddie the Eagle’. His real name is Michael.

Which in presenting this under achieving and over eager self publicist as a plucky underdog, this film duly takes.




Director: Joe Wright (2015)

Set sail to the stars with the boy who never grew up in this magical family fantasy.

Based on the tales of J.M.Barrie, it’s the action packed story of how the young orphan Peer first encounters the fantastical world of Neverland and discovers his destiny.

Die-hard fans of the book may be aghast at the liberties taken with the characters.

But there are compensations in this old fashioned adventure which is bolstered by some lovely design and beautiful animation.

Levi Miller is tremendously confident and engaging as the orphan Peter who is kidnapped from London by a flying pirate ship and whisked off to Neverland.

It’s a riotous place of broad humour, acrobatic fights, circus colours and rock songs, populated by Never-birds, crocodiles and fairies.

He’s set to work in a huge mine where he has to dig for Pixum, the powerful pixie dust.

It’s craved by the villainous pirate chief Blackbeard, performed in a lively pantomime by Hugh Jackman.

Peter escapes with the future Captain Hook, a two-handed rascal in the mould of Han Solo from Star Wars (1977).

Garrett Hedlund strives manfully in an unenviable role which requires a physical performance full of charm, humour and an edge of mystery and danger.

It’s too bad he’s not a young Harrison Ford but then again, who is?

He flirts unconvincingly with the kick ass princess Tiger Lily who’s from a multi-racial tribe of natives.

The character is described as a ‘redskin’ by Barrie and by allowing itself to be accused of whitewashing the role, the film scored a soft publicity own goal.

I’m far more concerned with Rooney Mara’s forgettable performance in a disappointingly thinly written female lead.

Her and Hedlund seem cast by committee.

Kathy Burke has fun as a devious nun and Cara Delevingne is alluring as a pod of mermaids.

Tiger Lily is mostly there to explain to Peter his part in a prophecy.

In order to fulfil it he must learn to believe in himself if he wants fulfil his destiny.

Director Joe Wright has form with making very theatrical film versions of classic books, such as in his Anna Karenina (2012).

He brings out the spectacle of the source material which was of course originally written for the stage.

Go on this awfully big adventure and you will believe in fairies.


Me And Earl And The Dying Girl

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (2015)

This tiresome coming-of-age cancer flick should have been titled Me, Myself and I.

Thomas Mann plays gangly geek Greg Gaines. He spends his high school life avoiding everyone but his friend Earl.

As they remake their favourite movies, a large volume of film references are dropped heavily on the viewers’ head.

Greg’s mother packs him off on a mercy visit to Rachel, a fellow student who’s dying of cancer.

Olivia Cooke is a picture of perky good health until suddenly sporting an array of fetching hats and wigs.

The script has no interest in her or the disease. She’s made to suffer only so Greg can develop as a character.

Played by Ronald Cyler II, all we learn of Earl is he hails from the wrong side of the tracks and has a hankering for titties. His word, not mine.

Poor Katherine C. Hughes is cast as the high school hot girl whose breasts the camera invites us to admire.

There’s inappropriate adult behaviour, accidental drug taking and fisticuffs in the cafeteria.

Quirky camera angles and cute animations are as provocatively passive aggressive in their behaviour as Greg is.

Ideas such as receiving advice from movie stars via their image on bedroom posters are never developed.

The young cast have charm and there are fleeting funny moments but the tone is teeth grindingly twee.

Kiwi screenwriter of Brit comedies Richard Curtis would be impressed by the random quirks masquerading as characters who populate Greg’s world.

I empathised mostly with a coma victim.


The Wolverine

Director: James Mangold (2013)

Hugh Jackman returns once again as the adamantium-clawed superhero in a movie that barks loudly but has too little bite.

Wolverine has left  the X-Men and is now known simply as Logan. He living a hermits existence in the wilds of Alaska when he is visited by the dangerous punk haired samurai Yukio (Rila Fukushima).

She transports him to Tokyo where he is introduced to her mentor, the dying Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi) whose life Logan once saved.

When Yashida’s beautiful daughter Mariko (Tao Okamoto) is attacked, Logan becomes involved in a dangerous battle of rival clans involving political intrigue and betrayal.

The film starts brilliantly and ends in a huge fight but the middle sags as Logan battles his inner demons.

There is a terrific fight on the roof of a bulllet train but the many ninja’s can’t execute the simplest attack without somersaults, pikes, twists and triple salchows – which must be exhausting and possibly not even neccessary.

They also insist on wearing their trademark all-black costumes when fighting in the snow. This isn’t displaying the requisite discretion these stealth warriors are famed for.

Jackman is an engaging screen presence and is most fun when he’s angry. He never shirks an opportunity to demonstrate his monstrously buff physique.

Okamoto is a graceful willow to Jackman’s hefty oak. But she lacks animation and there’s not a great deal of chemistry.

Much more fun are Yukio and Viper (Svetlana Khodchenkova). One is a fiesty and flirtatious foil for Logan, the other a glamorous poison-spitting mutant adversary.

This Wolverine is neutered by the 12A rating.  With his bladed hands slashing through his enemies,  the original comic turned to soggy pulp from all the red ink used in the fight scenes – but this is a noticeably bloodless affair.

As is the passionless romance which suffers from Logan mooning over his dead lover Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) while distractedly wooing the insipid Mariko.

This is an honourable and diverting attempt to bring depth to a familiar character but isn’t hugely rewarding.


Director: Neill Blomkamp (2015)

This socially aware sci-fi flick about a rogue robot suffers clunky construction, short-circuiting serious ideas with silliness.

A muddled exploration of what it means to be human, it lacks soul. Chappie the robot is annoying while human characters are unlikeable and thinly written.

It’s also determinedly derivative, poorly plotted, unintentionally funny and ends unconvincingly.

However there’s some great design, good action and an entertaining bad guy.

The crisp light of South Africa allows for fresh cinematography by Trent Opaloch and it’s edited with haste to keep the pace upbeat.

In his previous films District 9 and Elysium, director Blomkamp tackled racism and inequality. Here it’s the criminalisation of children, with echoes of Pinocchio and Oliver Twist.

In the near future, crime in Johannesburg has fallen dramatically due to the successful deployment of Scouts; heavily armed android police officers.

They’re designed by Deon Wilson (Dev Patel) who works at the Tetravaal corporation.

Rival designer Vincent Moore (Hugh Jackman) believes his beast of a machine – called the Moose – to be superior to the Scouts and is frustrated CEO Michelle Bradley (Sigourney Weaver) won’t provide the development funds he needs.

The contrast between the two different designs is remarkably similar to the two robots in Paul Verhoeven’s far superior 1987 classic Robocop.

It’s great fun to have Jackman as a bullying bad guy and there’s a little hint of Blade Runner’s JF Sebastian in Patel’s lonely Deon who builds toy robots for company at home.

Weaver is powerless to deliver anything interesting. Her ability, charisma and sci-fi cultural capital from playing Ripley in the Alien franchise is squandered.

While on a drugs raid, robot officer 22 is damaged and ear-marked for scrap. His battery is irreparable and only has five days of power remaining.

Deon rescues the robot to test his unapproved artificial intelligence program.

Meanwhile tattooed criminals Ninja and Yolandi (real-life rap duo Ninja and Yo-Landi Visser) and their accomplice Amerika (Jose Pablo Cantillo) are in a tight spot.

They have to pay gangland boss Hippo (Brandon Auret) 20 million Rand within seven days or face his violent wrath.

The’re so edgy they live in an abandoned warehouse decorated in day-glo graffiti and drape themselves in the Stars and Stripes.

Their plan is to force Deon to switch off the city’s police robots to facilitate their robbing an armoured bank truck.

When they discover 22 in Deon’s van, it’s decided he would add muscle to their scheme.

22 is reactivated with his newly programmed artificial consciousness and renamed Chappie – but he is naive and emotionally under-developed.

Sharlto Copley provides his voice and mannerisms through a motion capture performance.

Deon and Ninja are equally unsuitable father figures fighting for influence over their ‘child’. One teaches art and literature, the other swear-words and violence.

We pity Chappie as he’s exploited and abused – but he quickly becomes a petulant teen with an irritating gangster persona and styling.

Playing the gangsta attitude for laughs undermines the script’s earnest warning of learnt criminality.

There are heroic security failures, eruptions of comic-book violence and a mysteriously disappearing riot. A plastic chicken features frequently.

A jerry-built not custom made script fails to offer memorable scenes or dialogue. Except for the South African setting it’s all extraordinarily familiar and disappointingly tame.


X-Men: Days of Future Past

Director: Bryan Singer (2014)

Hugh Jackman sharpens his claws for the seventh time as superhero Wolverine in this action-packed adventure with added time-travel thrills.

The film has exciting set-pieces, a terrific cast, some good jokes and an entertaining new angle on the Kennedy assassination of November 1963.

Yet the script struggles to find time for a plot amid the cacophony of characters – so the special effects have to do the dramatic heavy lifting.

The story begins with mutants under attack by super-powered robots called the sentinels.

Mutant leaders Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send the mind of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to 1973 to inhabit his younger self’s body.

He has to find the young Xavier (James McAvoy) and convince him to help recruit Magneto (Michael Fassbender).

Magneto is jailed inside the Pentagon so they recruit a lightning fast mutant called Quicksilver (Evan Peters) to break him out.

This leads to a brilliant action comedy sequence set to the wonderful music of the late singer-songwriter Jim Croce whose music was also used in Tarantino’s bloody opus Django Unchained (2012).

Next the mutants have to stop the shapeshifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from carrying out a revenge killing of the scientist Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).

She decides to take direct action not realising his death could lead to the annihilation of the mutants by giving the the US government the excuse they’re looking for.

Fassbender and McEvoy have great fun in costume but neither has to squeeze himself into an unforgiving blue leotard like Lawrence.

It’s not uncanny of the film-makers to put the world’s most popular actress centre story. But even she can’t steal the show from the prowling, growling Jackman.



dir. Denis Villeneuve

Hugh Jackman and Terrence Howard are vigilante fathers fighting for justice in this damp, dull and silly thriller.

In this rain-drenched small town that seems to have a deranged individual twitching behind every curtain, there are a seemingly endless number of torture chambers.

Riddled with stupidity, inconsistency, alarming coincidence and a gun-toting granny, it corkscrews a path through plot-holes into a pit of preposterousness.

Survivalist carpenter Keller Dover (Jackman) and his neighbour Franklin Birch (Howard) are relaxing after sharing Thanksgiving dinner with their families.

Jackman pairs a ragged beard with a knitted frown and acts with a fist waving intensity while Howard gawps along with the audience.

As Dover’s wife Maria Bello has little to do but stagger in a pill-popping daze and Viola Davis as Mrs Birch is given less than that.

Their two young daughters fail to return home from playing outside and a desperate search begins for them.

As every cop in the state are brought in to hunt for the girls, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is assigned to lead the investigation and is known for never failing to solve a case.

Gyllenhaal is impressive as the tattooed and slick-haired cop, offering with wry humour the merest specks of light in the gathering gloom.

Keller tracks down the suspected killer himself, beating up the suspectAlex Jones (Paul Dano) and pleading with Franklin to interrogate him.

Brilliant British cinematographer Roger Deakins creates an air of bitter chill that emphasises the bleakness of tone but his talent is squandered on this material.