Zootropolis Review

Or is it Zootopia? Not since the Top Cat/Boss Cat alternate animated moniker shenanigans of the 1970s have I been so confused by a movie title. I’m sure Disney had their reasons, but title problems aside, the good news is Zooropa, sorry, that’s a U2 album, is a lot of fun. It looks beautiful as you’d expect from the Mouse stable, but the reason this works is the story has more meat on its bones than a butcher’s dog.

  
Image: Disney

There’s none of those formulaic licks from the Madagascar or Ice Age movies, trying to outrun things while finding home. Instead it’s a mystery involving random acts of savagery in the eponymous metropolis. 

The other bonus is the vocal cast. No A list star names to sell the film. No Jack Black in bold type on the poster when it should be 1,000 animators who did all the hard work. Instead the film is the star, though the vocal cast is spot on, especially Idris Elba’s gruff police boss/bison. 

Though a gag involving a sloth drags, intentionally so, it does set up one of the best gags of the movie later on. 

  
Image: Disney

It’s not the best offering from Disney in recent years, but plenty of nods to Breaking Bad, Frozen and The Godfather keep the grown ups happy while the kids will love it. One ankle biter bouncing up and down to the closing song on the front row was proof enough that the key demographic was satisfied. As for the thirty and fortysomethings a few rows back? Job done also.  

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Eddie the Eagle Review

Let’s get the obvious gag out of the way first. Eddie the Eagle, the biopic few people were waiting for, soars. Like Eddie Edwards, the plasterer with dreams of attending the Olympics, the movie is a little project with a modest budget which punches above its weight and delivers a knockout gem.  

Reteaming with producer Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman star Taron Egerton is outstanding as the downhill skiier who overcomes adversity and despite little previous experience, goes for gold at the Calgary Winter Olympics in 1988. 

Hugh Jackman is splendid as the boozy amalgamation of Eddie’s assorted coaches, while the fine supporting cast is fleshed out by Keith Allen, Jim Broadbent, Mark Benton, Tim McInnerny and in a glorified cameo, Christopher Walken. 

Great second unit direction by the legendary Vic Armstrong ensures the thrills and spills are top drawer while the script is a treat. 

  
Yes it’s formulaic, but in the first five minutes I was more engaged than in the entire duration of Batman v Superman

Okay, they are very different movies with polar opposite outlooks, but as a rabid Batfan, I’d rather see Eddie again in a heartbeat. 

Years ago I interviewed Dexter Fletcher who spent a few minutes jumping up and down like an overexcited child. On the strength of this, the actor/director should be like Tigger when ETE picks up a cache of awards in the coming year. 

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

I didn’t need much persuading to see the new secret project from JJ Abrams. Though not a fan of the original Cloverfield, I’m a huge fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman, while the premise – three people trapped in a bunker – was intriguing. MEW plays Michelle, a young woman fleeing from abusive partner Ben. 

  
Heading from New Orleans, while driving through rural Louisiana she hears of continuous blackouts in major cities before crashing. Shock number one. 

Waking in a bunker, on a drip and chained to a wall, she suspects eccentric stranger Howard (Goodman) has kidnapped her, but after meeting Emmett, another survivor who witnessed an apparent attack and fled to Howard’s bunker, there’s a chance the area could have been attacked by unknown forces. Howard’s unstable personality and Michelle’s desire for self preservation leads to an inevitable escape attempt, but something outside that door persuades her otherwise. 

So just what is going on? Russian invasion? Alien attack? Chernobyl style meltdown? Obviously that would be telling, but as the story unfolds we are treated to a claustrophobic thriller which either plays like an episode of The Twilight Zone or one of those survival TV movies. 

  
Made for a modest $15million, it boasts terrific perfs from the three leads, and a story that keeps you guessing until that WTF third act. 

Like The Disappearance of Alice Creed, another claustrophobic three hander with two men and a woman, this plays out beautifully, cranking up the tension and never letting the modest budget get in the way of a cracking story. Goodman gives a superb turn as the possible antagonist while Winstead is excellent as the troubled heroine, channelling a young Ripley. 

  
Though there are some loose ends and room for a sequel, this is a lot less annoying than Cloverfield and thankfully avoids the found footage gimmick. 

Shocks, thrills and some twists which will leave you dizzy, this is everything Batman v Superman should have been. The Dark Knight and the Man of Steel trapped in a bunker for 90 minutes. Now that’s a film worth seeing. 

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Review.

Given the reviews of Warner Bros’ mega budget, long awaited tent pole, you’d think Zack Snyder’s movie was on a par with Batman and Robin, Superman IV and Green Lantern, the lowest points on the DC movies chart of zero to hero flicks. 

It isn’t. 

What it is is a beast of a film juggling many things. Yes, it’s setting up the Wonder Woman movie, the Justice League and Aquaman films and, obviously, charting the eponymous battle between DC’s greatest heroes.  

I was never a huge fan of Christian Bale’s Dark Knight. I didn’t buy him as Bruce Wayne, so Ben Affleck’s take on the role was a welcome change. 

Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman on the other hand was suitably enigmatic, glamorous and a little other worldly. Henry Cavill… Well nothing new there after 2013’s Man of Steel. 

  
The problem is Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. A schizo take on his Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network. Except annoying. Really annoying. 

The other problem is the generic finale in which obligatory boss monster jumps around and smashes everything like the abomination from Ed Norton’s Incredible Hulk, or a dozen other forgettable fantasy epics. 

It plays like a cut scene from the Arkham Knight game, but with less convincing effects. 

  
It matters little. 

Despite those niggles, the movie stands up. It’s dark, occasionally weird and good value for money, even if you don’t feel for anyone. There’s no sucker punch moments here. (Pun intended Snyder fans). 

No sense of tension.   

Is it the movie we’ve all been waiting for? Possibly not. But as a time passer goes, it does the job even if the weight of this cinematic utility belt, with its assorted add ons, occasionally pulls the franchise’s trousers down. 

  

View From the Crow’s Nest – Life on the Ruby Princess: Part Four

For me there were a few blemishes on Princess’s tiara. Some of the decor is a little chintzy; the use of a dated font in wine bar Vines left my teeth on edge (Zapf Chancery is so 1985). And while it’s good for a social media addict like me to have a break, the flaky internet proved erratic.   
Niggles aside, the pros far outweighed the cons and the vessel soon became like a second home. Whether burning off the calories in nightclub Skywalkers, or easing tension at the excellent Lotus Spa health centre, every taste has been catered for. 
  
There are singles clubs, a library and facilities to keep the kids of all ages entertained. I even made a rare visit to the gym – there’s nothing more surreal than watching The Love Boat while working out, getting off a treadmill and walking down a swaying corridor. 

  

As a major player in the leisure industry, there’s little wonder ITV cameras wanted to document some of the drama for their series The Cruise. My tour of the lower decks alone proved utterly fascinating. 

  
To be continued…

Hail, Caesar! – Review

  
I was nodding off half way through the latest movie from the Coen brothers. “It’s not you, it’s me” I thought. A late night. “The film is possibly better than this”. I remember falling asleep in their 2002 offering The Man Who Wasn’t There, but blamed that on jetlag as I was watching it in Florida. But the fact a trio of pensioners walked out half way through made me realise it was them, not me. 

It’s bursting with great actors. George Clooney is terrific as movie star Baird Whitlock, fronting the eponymous biblical epic; Channing Tatum is splendid as Burt Gurney, a thespian in an On the Town style musical; Tilda Swinton superb in dual roles as Thora and Thessaly Thacker, twin sisters and rival gossip columnists, while Scarlett Johansson excellent as DeeAnna Moran, an Esther Williams-type starlet with a smart mouth. Then there’s Josh Brolin as Eddie Mannix, the head of production at Capitol Pictures and troubleshooter who is constantly in meetings or fixing problems. 

  
Hollywood, 2016. 

When Whitlock is drugged and abducted by a team called The Future, we expect the usual kidnap cliches. But this being a Coen brothers movie, nothing is as it seems. 

As the comedy drama plays out, and reaches its conclusion, there was a huge feeling of “Is that it?” when the closing credits rolled. The audience sat in stunned silence as the realisation that there was nothing more

Yes, it’s entertaining and often hilarious, especially a scene with director Laurence Laurentz (Ralph Fiennes) and Hobie Doyle (Alden Ehrenreich), a nice but dumb cowboy who has to adapt to a period costume drama. But while the A list stars were obviously lining up to appear, it’s a shame the story isn’t strong enough for their talents. 

It looks beautiful and of the time, while the score is pleasantly forgettable. 

However, given the siblings’ previous hits such as The Big Lebowski and No Country for Old Men, this, to quote a mate is ’Fail, Caesar!’

View From The Crow’s Nest – Life On the Ruby Princess Part Three

London-themed eatery the Crown Grill was also a delight, thanks to a fine filet mignon, delicious sides and hyper attentive waiters. The revelation? A selection of fine salt; Hawaiian black is now my favourite condiment (I’m scouring posh food halls to get my next fix). 

  

Meat lovers who prefer something lighter should try Princess’s other new dining attraction The Salty Dog gastropub; their mini burgers and fries went down a treat with my favourite beer. 

  
But while all of those eateries involve paying a little extra on top of your cruise fee, Princess’s main buffet area Horizon Court is so good, some may never want to go anywhere else. 

I was amazed by the quality of the varied menu (yes, vegetarians and those watching their calories are catered for) from dawn until after dark. 

Hours of testing proved consistently good, and after a fascinating trip below decks to the kitchens, I could see why. 

The phrase ’ship shape’ has rarely been more apt as assorted chefs, cooks and experts worked their magic. 

  
As for the entertainment? Well watching Movies Under the Stars on the top deck was a guilty pleasure to begin with; I caught a few minutes of Grease on day one before easing into vacation mode and soaking up my umpteenth screening of Avengers Assemble. 

  
But if live theatre is more your thing, then Magic To Do, a mash-up of Stephen Schwartz songs with some dazzling costumes and impressive trickery is a feast for the eyes and ears, especially if you’re a fan of Wicked’s standout track Defying Gravity. 

  

However, if there’s one show which will really make you spin in your chair it’s Voice of the Ocean, an engaging take on the globally successful TV talent search which was music to my ears. Earlier in the week fellow travellers tried out at packed auditions before the sing off on the last night. It was gloriously simple and hugely entertaining.