Monday, 4 March 2019

Review: Urbanized

I rather enjoyed this documentary romp through some of the more interesting projects being undertaken around the world's cities.   From memory, and it's been a few weeks since I watched it now - but projects in South America, North America, Germany and even Brighton in the UK are covered.

I particularly liked putting visuals to projects I'd only heard about before eg those of half built housing which enables their occupiers to finish them at their own pace and priorities.  And I loved seeing planners and architects in one city put cycling and public transport ahead of the car - on the grounds that more more people used them.

Verdict: Although thematically lacking, this surfaces some interesting stories.

Review: Unknown

Taken has a lot to answer for. Without it, I doubt we'd see quite as much of Neeson striding across our screens as a not-quite everyman trying to puzzle his way through a succession of action thrillers. Unknown is perhaps better than most as it see the big fella try to figure out why his identity has been stolen or has it?

This euro-thriller feels distinctly Hitchcockian (although thankfully faster paced) with its many twists, turns and gasp worthy reveals. Neeson does a sturdy job as always while Jones, Ganz and Langella provide unconventionally cast but equally acceptable support.

Verdict: A good popcorn chomper.

Review: Green Book

Satisfying and worthy Oscar winning road trip which is a near perfect execution of the formula. Not only highly entertaining, but also well judged on the education side of things.  Mortensen and Ali perfectly capture two very different people who are thrown together and slowly gain an appreciation of each other's finer qualities while being personally transformed.

The attention to period detail is wonderful on multiple layers. From street furniture to dialogue and appalling racism I felt completely immersed in the era.  Warning, you may feel rather hungry as you watch large Italian-American families and Tony Lip devour their way through some gargantuan portions of 60s grub.

Verdict: Spot-on Sunday viewing

Review: The Energy Plan

Collins' book helpfully adapts what has worked for athletes and other sports people to us ordinary mortals. In truth there wasn't much that was new here, but if you've never considered the impact diet and exercise can make on your life and want a relatively no-fuss way of taking your first steps.

I did like his approach to measuring portions - a mixture of handfuls, cupped hands and thumbs as well as his refusal to consider calories (simply noting that overdosing on healthy foods can still make you fatter). The notion of tailoring meal composition to what you've been doing activity wise was good too.

Collins' is an informed sceptic on supplementation and probably of most use to me was the chapter on ageing (and the necessity to adapt your plan to differing needs and activity levels).

Verdict: Food for thought.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Review: The Missy Chronicles

Missy is the Doctor's arch enemy and played something of a trojan horse in laying the groundwork for a female Doctor. The Missy Chronicles catalogues the continuing adventures of the rogue Timelord covering the full range of the incarnation's existence.

As an on-screen character, Missy was often polarising - and the adventures detailed here while not quite as divisive are certainly varied in success. On paper, Missy is rather more violent than on screen and sometimes the book dipped into the 15+ territory for gore.

My favourite of the stories here are by Goss (a darkly relevant tale of revenge by a recently regenerated Missy), Scott (Missy is asked to do Gallifrey's dirty work with grim results) and Rayner (Missy tries to mobilise women of history for her own reasons).

Verdict: Mixed bag for the Doctor's favourite frenemy.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Review: Collateral Beauty

Smith's career seems to have bifurcated in recent years so dividing his time between comedy action movies and more thoughtful personal pieces.  Collateral Beauty is an example of the latter: a modern variation on A Christmas Carol. 

It's by no-means a perfect film, but as a meditation on grief (especially those who have lost children or are facing death themselves) its heart is very much in the right place.  Add in a stellar cast with a number of affecting performances - Smith and Peña especially.

In a defter script writer's hands this would more satisfactorily tied up all of the various strands and story loops. Instead, after some great work by an excellent cast early on - the pay off, especially for Smith's character, felt slightly contrived.  Some logic only makes sense in movies - and then only if you are willing to roll with the shared fantasy. I almost was, but choked at both the amnesia and the mean trick at the heart of it all.

Overall, it worked for me because while I don't have direct experience of them - some of the character's situations were very recognisable to me.

Verdict: Hit the spot for me, but YMMV. 

Review: Non-stop

Another Neeson actioner which this time sees the big fella striding around the confines of a passenger plane and muscling his way through an intriguing premise.  Yet again, he's a world weary everyman with issues.

The rest of the cast provides good support - with Dockery and Moore being particularly fine foils.

What a shame then that the final act goes completely to pot with the villain's motivations being left at best poorly explained and at worst utterly baffling.  It really needed a Mr Big style conspiracy to anchor it all, but that would required Neeson's character to take them down in an extended coda.

Verdict: Intense thriller on a plane that fails to land.