This month I watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Beauty and the Beast and Alien: Covenant at the cinema. TV wise, I binged Ryan Murphy’s new show Feud about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s rivalry, Neflix’s Riverdale and Season 5 of House of Cards.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Elizabeth Debicki, Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Sean Gunn, Pom Klementieff
It was always going to be difficult for James Gunn to follow-up on his 2014 blockbuster smash hit but he’s done it alright! Gunn has delivered a sequel that is bigger, louder, more ambitious and, most importantly, funnier. Baby Groot is, of course, the standout and he tugs at your heartstrings like never before and Bautista’s Drax is as hilarious as ever. The introduction of Peter Quill’s father was much-anticipated and I felt Kurt Russell was the perfect casting choice. Sequels are often too ambitious and the plot becomes muddled and characters get lost; however, Guardians manages to keep the focus on the core five and the audience never fails to care for whatever wild ride they might embark on. A fun-fuelled adventure with a predictably brilliant soundtrack which perfectly sets up for a further sequel and as a lead up to the Guardian’s appearance in Marvel’s upcoming Infinity War.
Developed by: Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
Starring: KJ Apa, Lili Reinhart, Camila Mendes, Cole Sprouse, Marisol Nichols, Ashleigh Murray, Mädchen Amick, Luke Perry
Based on characters created by Archie Comics, I was surprised to find they had been used to create a teen drama series. It is far from a masterpiece and the teen love triangles/romances do grate on occasion if you’re over the age of seventeen but characters are engaging enough and the whodunnit kept my interest. Cole Sprouse as Jughead Jones and Lili Reinhart as Betty Cooper were by far the standouts of the series and I’m very much looking forward to the further development of their characters. Sprouse’s storyline and his interaction with Skeet Ulrich as his father was the most interesting aspect of the series and I hope they keep the focus on him as Apa’s Archie, so far, is rather dull as the lead. Room for improvement but very enjoyable nonetheless.
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demian Bichir, Amy Seimetz, Callie Hernandez, Jussie Smollett, Nathaniel Dean, Guy Pierce
People seemed to have very mixed feelings regarding the latest Alien offering. I thoroughly enjoyed Alien: Covenant and I felt it was a return to form for the franchise. Genuinely tense and frightening and, of course, Michael Fassbender was incredible playing the dual role of David and the new synthetic, Walter. I guess the biggest problem with the film is the large number of characters so, for some, there is little time to get to know them and little room for character development. However, I cared greatly for the core group’s fate and I like the nod to Ripley through Waterston. The interaction between David and Walter is incredibly interesting to watch and Fassbender once again proves why he is one of the best actors working in Hollywood. The film is intense, contains some incredible set pieces, some great nods to the original films and some wonderful twist moments. It’ll never be as good as the original (how could it be?) but it is a worthy addition to the franchise.
Feud: Bette and Joan (S1)
Created by: Ryan Murphy,
Starring: Jessica Lange, Susan Sarandon, Alfred Molina, Stanley Tucci, Judy Davis, Jackie Hoffman, Alison Wright, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kathy Bates
The rivalry between Bette Davis (Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (Lange) is a notorious one. The show focuses on the years during and after the production of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and how their friendship/rivalry changed during this time. The casting of Sarandon and Lange is perfect, with Lange initially outshining Sarandon as the production kicks off but it is Sarandon who leaves a lasting impression. Capturing the essence of Bette Davis; she is bitter and funny, unlikable and unkind, sympathetic and ultimately heartbreaking. It is in the quite moments where the two leads really shine as we see what could have been between the two stars. Molina is also fantastic as director Robert Aldrich and Davis seems to be having a hell of a time as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. A funny and heartbreaking series brought to life by Lange and Sarandon’s superior performances.
House of Cards (S5)
Created by: Beau Willimon
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, Michael Kelly, Campbell Scott, Patricia Clarkson, Paul Sparks, Derek Cecil, Neve Campbell, Joel Kinnaman, Dominique McElligott, Boris McGiver, Jayne Atkinson, Colm Feore, Damian Young
Season 5 kicks off with the looming election between Frank Underwood (Spacey) and Will Conway (Kinnaman). Frank’s popularity is heavily declining and Claire (Wright), a recent nominee for Vice President, is becoming increasingly popular. The pressure is on this season as the election gets underway and it’s a battle between Frank and Claire as to who will come out on top. Spacey and Wright are never better than when they’re heading into battle, either united against a common enemy or against one another. Kinnaman continues to impress this season as Frank’s opponent and Patricia Clarkson is such a fantastic addition as the never-know-who’s-side-she’s-on ICO expert, Jane Davis. One of the show’s best seasons and the ending makes you question just where the hell the show will go next. Fantastic!
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Director: Bill Condon
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Kevin Kline, Josh Gad, Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Nathan Mack
I was apprehensive at first about watching the live-action version of one of my all time favourite Disney films but I actually really loved it. Stevens was the perfect choice as the Beast and Evans really surprised me as Gaston and I thought he was wonderful, as was Gad as LeFou. I did feel, however, that Watson did struggle during the emotional scenes as Belle but she was otherwise adequate. Our favourite songs from the Disney classic are still present and they’ve given the characters further backstory which I appreciated. McGregor, Thompson, Tucci and McKellen are fantastic in their respective voice roles. McGregor did sound slightly Mexican at times but he is forgiven as Lumière does provide the most laughs! The ‘Tale as Old as Time’ scene is simply beautiful and the ‘Be Our Guest’ sequence is as spectacular as its animated counterpart. This fresh take on Beauty and the Beast is a lovely homage to the original.
I will also be posting a farewell review for the last seasons of Bates Motel and The Leftovers very soon.
– Lorna C.