30 Nov 18
The Irish Sun
YOUR mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read all the reviews in this instalment of Sun DVDs.
There’s Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Westworld, SWAT, kids’ fun with Hotel Transylvania 3 and Dog Days, Star Trek: Discovery, Barcelona footie documentary Take The Ball, Pass The Ball and The Serpent’s Egg. Read on before it self-destructs…
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
(12) Out Dec 3
The DVD extras taking you behind the scenes make the stunts all the more breathtaking
The latest outing for Ethan Hunt and the rest of his IMF spy team is the most spectacular yet.
Certainly in terms of stuntwork, Tom Cruise and the backroom staff produce some phenomenal results.
Henry Cavill is an able foil for Cruise as a cocky CIA hardman, while Simon Pegg, Ving Rhames, Rebecca Ferguson and Alec Baldwin all pull their weight.
Pegg’s tech nerd Benji has dialled down the comic sidekick schtick a little, which is a wise move.
As a story, there’s probably only the first Mission: Impossible movie that tops it, while the DVD extras taking you behind the scenes make the stunts all the more breathtaking.
Westworld: Season 2 – The Door
(15) Out Dec 3
If the first series was an engrossing puzzle, this one is a Times cryptic crossword with half the clues missing
The theme park’s robots, or ‘hosts’, have gone into full-on rebellion, as we saw at the end of Season 1.
Season 2 shows us how the rebellion plays out, with four main narratives guiding us through the action.
Once the epitome of sweetness and innocence, rancher’s daughter Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is now on the rampage, slaughtering any humans and hosts that stand in the way of her revenge. Good-natured gunslinger host Teddy is by her side, but can he rein Dolores in?
Another host, former brothel madam Maeve (Thandie Newton), is on a quest to find her daughter from a past story loop, and is accompanied by a ragtag gang of humans and hosts.
Meanwhile the park’s dark-hearted owner William, aka The Man In Black (Ed Harris), is still struggling to solve the riddle of Westworld that he believes was left for him by the robots’ creator Ford (Anthony Hopkins).
And finally Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), still reeling from the discovery he’s not human, is struggling to piece together where and when he is.
Bernard’s story is the most troublesome for the viewer as it is deliberately all over the place. Until the end of the series (and for many of us even then), we are as unsure as Bernard whether the various pieces of his story that we see are in the present or the past, whether they’re real or not and how any of it ties into the overall Westworld story.
You really need to rewatch the last couple of episodes of Season 1 at least to make much sense of the first two episodes, which are frustratingly light on explanation.
[bc_video video_id=”5738698595001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” caption=”HBO releases season 2 trailer for WestWorld at San Diego Comic Con “]
For a series that’s all about how to reset storylines and replay them, it struggles to give viewers a hook back in and to bring them back up to speed.
Dolores and Teddy, meanwhile, were the synthetic heartbeat of the first season but their story in the second season is mostly forgettable until the last couple of episodes. Dolores’ newfound penchant for speaking psychobabble doesn’t help.
Thank heaven then for the relatively more straightforward arcs of Maeve and William. Maeve’s journey into Shogunworld, in particular, helps expand the Westworld Universe without overloading on tech jargon.
And there are a couple of new characters that surprisingly have the two best episodes of the ten. One is the park-owning company’s founder James Delos, a business shark brought to life with a fizzing, tour-de-force performance by Scots actor Peter Mullan. The second? Well, that would be to spoil things…
If you’re willing to put the hard yards in, do some rewatching and maybe some online digging to make sense of the timelines, then Westworld continues to deliver, with some real high points.
But it’s hard to shake the feeling that the writers have rather disappeared up their own fundament, and that what should be clever plotting is simply messy, poorly explained technological and philosophical jibberish.
It’s entirely possible to go through the series remaining unsure who certain side characters are or what their motivation is.
If the first series was an engrossing puzzle, this one is a Times cryptic crossword with half the clues missing.
Hopefully Series 3 will get back to less obtuse storytelling, and not try to add yet another layer of complexity over what’s already there.
It’s undeniably still rather seductive and addictive, though, despite the flaws.
Hotel Transylvania 3
(U) Out Dec 3
It’s not exactly a scream-a-minute, but the kids were hypnotised
The Drac pack is back to take a third bite of this family-friendly franchise.
All your favourite monsters are undead on their feet working at the hotel, so Mavis takes the gang on a haunted cruise – pursued by their arch-enemy Van Helsing.
Dracula gets bitten by the love bug when he falls for the ship’s mysterious – and dangerous – human captain Ericka.
[bc_video video_id=”5804310232001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” padding_top=”56%” autoplay=”” min_width=”0px” max_width=”640px” width=”100%” height=”100%” caption=”Dracula and the rest of the family return for a monster vacation in Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation”]
It’s a high-energy explosion of colour and music – including a spooktacular DJ battle finale. The film is also packed with extras such as scary-oke sing-alongs and a monster party dance-along.
It’s not exactly a scream-a-minute, but the kids were hypnotised.
Another monster hit.
SWAT: Season 1
(15) Out Dec 3
Although chock-filled with busting-down-doors action thrills, the 22 episodes also tackle social issues such as racism, immigration and politics
More than 40 years after the original TV show, this SWAT reboot ticks all the boxes for a perfect cop drama to watch on a cold winter’s night.
It follows LA born-and-bred SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics unit) lieutenant Daniel ‘Hondo’ Harrelson – a former Marine who is torn between duty to his fellow officers and loyalty to the people they serve.
Although chock-filled with busting-down-doors action thrills, the 22 episodes also tackle social issues such as racism, immigration and politics.
It doesn’t stray too far from the usual cop-show tropes, and although the season gets off to a shaky start, lead actor Shemar Moore is compelling as the hero trying to build a bridge between the black community in LA and the police.
SWAT is a fun, watchable drama in a modern backdrop that doesn’t tax your brain too much.
(12) Out Dec 3
Eva Longoria and Vanessa Hudgens take the lead in a star-studded cast to weave together six tails of owners and their pets that will make dog-lovers laugh, cry – and groan
A MUTT-see romantic comedy which crosses stories about the love of dogs, with falling in love.
Eva Longoria and Vanessa Hudgens take the lead in a star-studded cast to weave together six tails of owners and their pets that will make dog-lovers laugh, cry – and groan.
A news anchor, waitress, musician, grumpy old man, adopting couple and frazzled first-time parents walkies their way through troublesome dog days to a sweet ending in scenes that will pug at your heartstrings.
If you’re not into man’s best friend it may be more shih tzu than bichon frisey viewing. But for everyone else, it’s super syrupy but one you’ll love to paws and rewind time and again.
Star Trek: Discovery – Season 1
(15) Out now
The plot carries on at a fair clip, covering everything from environmental disasters to what constitutes a ‘just war’, but starts to get bogged down under the own weight of its expectations
The Netflix series is set ten years before the original Star Trek and follows former commander Michael Burnham.
Having been court-martialled following a disastrous series of command choices, she is trying to work her way back into the good graces of the United Federation of Planets during wartime, aboard the ship affectionately nicknamed Disco.
Sonequa Martin-Green (The Walking Dead) plays Burnham with aplomb, portraying Michael as an ambitious young woman caught between two cultures, having been raised on the famously detached Vulcan home world.
Michelle Yeoh, always a welcome sight, makes an imperious turn as Michael’s former captain and mentor, Philippa Georgiou.
[bc_video video_id=”5570136939001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” caption=”The first FULL trailer for new Netflix series for Star Trek: Discovery”]
The plot carries on at a fair clip, covering everything from environmental disasters to what constitutes a “just war”, but starts to get bogged down under the own weight of its expectations.
Some of the story threads, whilst admirably ambitious, often get lost amongst the spectacle of the show and makes for a cluttered narrative.
Overall an enjoyable season of television that is worth watching for the characters, if not the plot.
Take The Ball, Pass The Ball
(12) Out now
What you get from the film is entirely dependent on what you want to get out of it
Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side between 2008 and 2012 has been described as “one of the greatest football teams ever assembled”.
Take The Ball, Pass The Ball takes a first-hand look back at this time in the club’s history – casting an eye over the rivalry with José Mourinho’s Real Madrid, defender Éric Abidal’s battle with cancer and Lionel Messi’s rise to the top.
You hear a lot from big names involved with the club at the time; the line-up of interviewees is spectacular, with Messi, Thierry Henry and Carles Puyol to name a few.
But for a documentary that is essentially all about him, a fleeting appearance from Pep himself is lacklustre at best. As you can expect, this smorgasbord of Barça legends makes the documentary incredibly self-indulgent, with only sparse sections of negativity.
[bc_video video_id=”5850068856001″ account_id=”5067014667001″ player_id=”default” embed=”in-page” padding_top=”56%” autoplay=”” min_width=”0px” max_width=”640px” width=”100%” height=”100%” caption=”Brand new trailer for FC Barcelona film ‘Take The Ball, Pass The Ball’ starring Lionel Messi, Thierry Henry, Xavi and many more”]
What you get from the film is entirely dependent on what you want to get out of it. If you want to gain an understanding of the philosophy behind this dominant Barça side, then this is perfect for you.
There are some really insightful moments into how this side were constructed, and how they did so well – having Xavi guide you through the team’s tactics, whilst watching how they actually did it in split-screen, is genuinely intriguing – an experience you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
For football fans, an enjoyable watch that peacocks the side’s achievements – just don’t expect anything more than that.
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The Serpent’s Egg
(18) Out Dec 3
The film is especially resonant now, with anti-Semitism once more rearing its ugly head in sections of British politics
It’s early 1920s Berlin, and Germany is in the grip of hyperinflation, with the insidious creep of anti-Semitism following close behind.
Trapeze artist Abel (Kung Fu and Kill Bill’s David Carradine) starts off contemptuous of his fellow Jews who, as he sees it, only get into trouble if they behave recklessly, but soon the city starts to close its jaws around him.
This 1977 film, now rereleased on high-definition Blu-ray, is Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s only Hollywood film (teaming up with tempestuous producer Dino de Laurentiis) and was savaged by the critics on release.
However, time has been kind to it, and the atmospheric oddness of the film – navigating its way through the seedy underbelly of the Weimar Republic’s cabarets and brothels – now works in its favour.
The spectre of police state brutality is chilling, as is the growing sense of claustrophobia enveloping a whole city, and while The Serpent’s Egg is long, clocking in at two hours, it takes several unexpected narrative turns and doesn’t outstay its welcome.
Some sections of the film are entirely in German, without subtitles – the subtitles on the Blu-ray unhelpfully say only ‘Character speaks in German’ – but while a little frustrating it does serve to reflect the alienation that an interloper like Abel feels in Berlin.
The film is especially resonant now, with anti-Semitism once more rearing its ugly head in sections of British politics.
While The Serpent’s Egg is something of a curate’s egg, it’s far from unrewarding.