Johnny English Strikes Again : Review

When the names of all the active undercover agents in Britain are compromised through a massive cyber attack, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) is dragged out of retirement to find this hacking mastermind. Having become a geography teacher after he outing as a spy, life has seemingly become rather mundane, save for him training his students on the side in the art of spying and tactics.

With the aide of his trusty assistant, Bough (Ben Miller), Johnny English sets off, much to the dismay of the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson – Beauty and the Beast, Alone in Berlin), who is very much trying to win over the favour of tech genius Jason (Jake Lacy – Rampage).  As he bungles he way through spy work, English meets a lemme fatal Ophelia (Olga Kurylenko) who he must quickly size-up, lest she outplay him, with terrible consequences.

Johnny English is the spy we all love, yet wonder just how he manages to come out on top in the end. We know he will, it’s frustrating to see the solution before us, and yet as a viewer, it is clear to see, that in the end, he shall prevail. With an engrossing story, some predictable parts on the side of English and his misguided ways, and yet, entertaining none the less. While some viewers might not appreciate this sort of situational humour, it’s not all slapstick and silliness. The film has a real, well rounded story to it, with an endearing quality that grows ever more stronger, the funnier the moment.

A film full of fun, action, and talent, this might not be the next epic tale in the vein of Bond, but one would not expect as much. Keep a stiff upper lip as you guffaw at the British way of their agent.

Johnny English Strikes Again is a spy story with laughs. Thoroughly enjoyable. It opens Friday 21 September 2018, in South African cinemas.

A Quiet Place (DVD) : Review

Film

Some months after a catastrophic, global event takes place, and here we get a look into the lives of a family who are now forced to live in silence lest they attract any one of the many creatures, with ultra-sensitive hearing, now causing death and destruction worldwide.

Family members Lee Abbott (John Krasinski – Detroit, Monsters University), Evelyn (Emily Blunt – Sherlock Gnomes, The Girl On The Train), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), Marcus (Noah Jupe – Suburbicon, The Man with the Iron Heart), and Beau (Cade Woodward) have fallen into a routine by the time we meet them, going out to get supplies, and having the farm where they stay strewn with various means to alert them to potential danger, and to assist them in making as little sound as possible.

A Quiet Place, by its very namesake, is a film where sound plays a very important role. There is very little dialogue, yet the sounds from the characters, creatures, and nature serve to not only build the tension in the story, but to inform the viewer of current events, and give a glimpse into the current emotional state of each character. The cast are incredibly talented, and this would be needed to pull of a story where emotion and expression are paramount.

The film’s story is gripping, prompting the viewer to imagine their own reaction in the current situation. Yet, the film’s backstory is a little sparse. We find out small bits of information as the story progressing, but this does lead to a bit of predictability, and many might wonder why the entire situation with these foreboding creatures was not sorted long ago, and instead left to a pretty normal family needing to find ways to avoid or fight them.

A Quite Place is an entertaining horror film, with a good dose of tension, and an entertaining story. Not just a film for horror fans, despite a few short-comings in the story.

Disc

Overall, the disc is of a good technical quality, with an enjoyable main feature. It is, however, scares on bonus features, including just the one short featurette.

A Quiet Place is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

Video

Video is encoded at a high average bitrate. There are no visible artefacts on-screen. Colours are vibrant, with no visible colour bleed. Detail and contrast are good in the several darker scenes. Fast paced scenes maintain a good amount of detail too.

Viewers with the necessary hardware or software could scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.

Audio

Audio is encoded at a high average bitrate, and with a film such as A Quiet Place that is so scarce on dialogue, audio from the environment plays a rather important role. The little dialogue there is, is clear via the centre speaker. The use of the surround channels, and discrete sounds and panning between channels helps immerse the viewer in the story. A set of full range, high quality speakers is a must to fully enjoy the audio, and appreciate the handful of jump scares one would expect.

Navigation

After choosing the desired menu language, one is taken directly to the main menu, which is a static menu and no accompanying background music. There are text links to play the main feature, audio options, subtitles, special feature, and scene selection.

Audio options takes the viewer to a sub-menu with a text list of four languages to choose from.

The subtitle sub-menu has a list of thirteen languages, or none, to choose from.

The special feature sub-menu has a link for the only bonus feature on the disc.

The scene selection sub-menus each have four large, colour, static thumbnails, for a total of fifteen chapters. There are direct links to the various pages provided on a navigation bar at the bottom of screen. While the thumbnails are numbered, they are not labelled, nor is there a chapter listing included in the disc packaging, so navigation to a specific part of the main feature would require some guesswork.

Bonus Features

Creating The Quiet – Behind the Scenes of A Quiet Place – A look at the film, with interviews by cast and crew, from conception to screen, and how the filmmakers worked to get the setting of the film, and set design, just right, for the movie.

While this featurette is short, it does contain a plethora of interesting facts, that are sure to appeal to both the average viewer and budding filmmakers alike.

Packaging

Packaging is a rather standard DVD Jewell case, with a poster and lead cast listing on the front. The back has a short synopsis, a few stills from the film, and the usual technical information and logos.

There are no package inserts in the case, such as chapter listing, etc.

Ready Player One (DVD) : Review

Film

When the creator of a virtual reality world called the OASIS dies, he releases a video in which he challenges all OASIS users to find his Easter Egg, which will give the finder his fortune.

Re-watch Value

With the massive amount of on-screen visuals, fast pace of many scenes, and the long list of nostalgic references in Ready Player One, there is just too much to see, and still follow the story to any extent. Therefore, there is a great deal of re-watch value for the film. There is just too much to cover or spot in the first few sittings.

While much of the nostalgia stems from references, whether spoken or visual, to the beginning of gaming culture, and time even before there were large online communities, when people met up at arcades, or swapped high scores and strategy via magazines and in person.

Ready Player One is still just as enjoyable, and engrossing, as with the first viewing.

Read the full SAMDB review of Ready Player One.

Cast, Writer, Author, Director Q&A

Disc

Overall, the disc of of a good technical quality, with a fun main feature. It is lacking on the side of bonus features, but this does allow for more disc space for the main feature, meaning it can carry a higher bitrate. The disc is a dual layer, using nearly all available space provided.

Ready Player One is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

Video

Video on the disc is encoded at a high average bitrate, with no visible artefacts on-screen. Colours are vibrant, with no visible colour bleed. Detail in darker and faster paced scenes is good.

Viewers with the necessary hardware or software can scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.

Audio

Audio for the main feature is encoded at a high average bitrate, and presented in a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. Dialogue is clear via the centre speaker. There is great use made of the surround channels, through discreet sound and panning between channels.

Audio for the bonus feature is encoded in a 2.0 stereo mix.

Navigation

The disc launches straight into the main menu, with a motion background, and accompanying music. The background contains some clips from the main feature, but these do not give away any spoilers.

The main menu is easy to navigate, with text links to play the main feature, scene selection, languages, and special features.

The scene selections sub-menu has five large, colour, static thumbnails per screen, for a total of fourteen chapters. There is a navigation menu on each screen to jump directly to any of the other chapter sub-menus, or back to the main menu. While the thumbnails are numbered though, they are not labelled, so navigating to a particular part of the main feature would require an amount of guesswork.

The languages sub-menu has a text list of audio and subtitle languages to choose.

The special features sub-menu has a link to the one bonus feature included on the disc.

Bonus Features

The 80’s: You’re The Inspiration – A look back at the events and progress of the 80’s, with interviews by director Steven Spielberg and writer Ernest Cline, with appearances by cast and crew. The feature has input from those interviewed about how the things they loved in the 80’s have made the transition to film.

An interesting look at what others loved from the time, how those things in popular culture were revered, and how the story made it to the big screen. The featurette is a fun addition to the overall nostalgic feel of the film.

Packaging

Packaging is pretty standard in the usual DVD Jewell case, with a poster with title and some character headshots on the front. The back of the casing has a short synopsis, a listing for the bonus feature, and the usual technical information and logos. There is no package insert, such as chapter headings.

 

The Nun : Review

Based in the same universe as The Conjuring and Annabelle movies, and featuring the demonic nun (Bonnie Aarons – Annabelle: Creation) that scared viewers in The Conjuring 2, The Nun takes us on a trip away from the bustle of the city and suburbia, and to Romania where Father Burke (Demián Bichir – Alien: Covenant) and Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) have been sent to an old abbey to confront evil, and face their fears.

With Sister Irene not having taken her final vows, and Father Burke unsure of what is to come, the two are lead to the area by Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet – 3 Days to Kill, The Family).

The Nun has the making of scare, and if one were to judge it by the trailer, it certainly would not disappoint, but once we’ve seen the demonic entity in all its glory, the mind relaxes, and the tension dies somewhat. The second half of the film is a bit predictable, plot points that are set up at the beginning pop up as expected, and those devices play out in a somewhat mediocre way.

Not to say the story isn’t enthralling, there is fear to be had, but eschewing the jump scares and relying on a more sophisticated way to bring terror to audiences is both a gift from the film, and somewhat it’s third act undoing.

For horror fans, this is still a fun ride, and of course, anyone who has seen part of the greater universe in which the film is set dare not miss this next instalment.

Bichir gives us a performance reminiscent of Max von Sydow, and genre classic The Exorcist. Aarons is chilling in her stillness, and young Farmiga is both vulnerable, yet possessing an inner toughness. Not for a lack of talent, the story of The Nun is pulled together by an excellent cast. Add to this, a rather creepy setting, and there are the makings of enough fuel for ones imagination to keep the dark imagery alive for many nights to come.

A horror with fear, with talent, and an enjoyable way to while away an afternoon, The Nun opens in South African cinemas 7 September 2018.

Avengers Infinity War (3D Blu-Ray) : Review

Film

An epic event in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), bringing together heroes and teams in a dark chapter, ten years in the making. Teaming together The Avengers, The Guardians of the Galaxy, citizens of Wakanda, and a host of warriors, all pitted against Thanos and his end game that will extinguish half the lives in the universe. A no holds barred, high stakes telling of a pivotal event.

Read the full SAMDB review of Avengers: Infinity War.

 

Re-watch Value

With so much emotion evoked in cinema audiences, one would be forgiven for missing many of the subtleties in the story, the in-jokes, the amusing quips by characters. A subsequent viewing is sure to reveal many of those missed, not to mention any of the foreshadowing that might have slipped by.

A story of this scale is not one for just a once-off viewing, and watching the film again after seeing some of the later releases from Marvel Studios does give one pause at times to ponder a few “ah ha” moments.

And let us not forget the fact that on one’s own home theatre equipment, the film is likely to be a lot easier to see than in the badly calibrated cinemas and their all too dark screens; not forgetting some cinemas where sound is not the best either.

Most definitely worth several sittings, Avengers: Infinity War is a must see again, and a prize to add to one’s film collection.

Disc

There are two discs for Avengers: Infinity War, one that is a 3D version of the film, and then a 2D version with bonus features. Overall, these discs of a very high quality, with a great collection of bonus features, and top quality video and audio.

As with most of the Disney disc releases, this is how a disc should be done. There could have been a few more bonus features included, to really push the value for money feel, but a good quality disc, both technically and with included material, and a fun main feature to watch.

Avengers: Infinity War is available now, to purchase on disc, in South Africa.

Video

Video on both discs is encoded at a high average bitrate. There are no visible artefacts on-screen. Colours are vibrant, with no visible bleed.

Video for the menu system is slightly more compressed, understandably, to allow for more space for the main feature, but this causes no visible issues.

Viewers with the necessary hardware or software could scale up to a larger or higher resolution screen, should they wish.

Audio

Audio is presented in a DTS-HD 7.1 soundtrack, with a 2.0 descriptive audio mix provided.

Audio is encoded at a high average bitrate, with dialogue clear via the centre speaker. Great use is made of the surround channels, with distinct audio effects and panning.

Navigation

After a disc language choice, the by now well known Marvel Studios logo animation, and a disc loading screen, featuring the Infinity Stones, one is presented by the main menu.

Navigation is simple, and easy to follow. The main menu has a motion background, with some video from the main feature. There are text links to play the main feature, bonus features, scene selection, and set up.

The play menu item takes the viewer to a sub-menu, where there are choices to play the main feature, or to have an introduction by directors Joe and Anthony Russo.

The bonus features sub-menu has selections for further sub-menus, namely the bonus featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel, audio commentary, and an info link that plays the warning  and disclaimer text again.

The bonus features sub-menu has links to a further sub-menu to play the four featurettes, with an option to play all in a playlist, there are also links to the deleted scenes sub-menu, gag reel, and audio commentary.

The deleted scenes sub-menu has links to four scenes that did not make the final cut of the film. There is also an option to play all in a playlist.

The gag reel menu item will play the outtakes directly, giving audiences a bit of insight to behind the scenes, and showing a few of the more light-hearted moments on set.

The scene selection menu has allows one to go directly to certain parts of the main feature. These have static, colour thumbnails, which are both numbered and labelled, making it rather easy to navigate to a desired scene. The menu has an overview window too, showing the overall progress through the main feature where the highlighted scene occurs, with a timestamp below. There are 20 chapters in total.

The setup sub-menu allows one to choose between two additional sub-menus where one can select the desired audio track, and any subtitles one desires.

Navigation on the 3D disc, once a compliance check for 3D capability are performed on the viewers player and screen, is similar to the 2D disc, lacking only the bonus features present on the 2D disc.

Bonus Features

The bonus featurettes consist of four items.

Strange Alchemy – A phrase coined by the production team during pre-production of the film, where different characters are paired off in various scenes, complimenting or standing in opposition. Some great insight into the work needed to create a story that contains so many of the Marvel characters, so many stars, and yet actually tells a story that makes sense, and can integrate into the bigger picture of the MCU.

The Mad Titan – Thanos, love him or hate him, this featurette delves deeper in the story that has been slowly revealed to us over several films and through various incidents in the bigger story arcs.

Beyond The Battle: Titan – The planet Titan, it’s background, and how the entire sequence was filmed. With interviews by cast and crew, this is a look at one of the settings where forces on both sides face off for a final battle.

Beyond The Battle: Wakanda – Another featurette looking at one of the settings for the climactic battle. Again, we are given insight into aspects related to story, and filmmaking, choices by the filmmakers, and through video and interviews with cast and crew, a behind the scenes look at the entire process.

Deleted Scenes – A few extended, or deleted scenes, removed from the main feature for some or other reason, be it pacing or that the scene just did not fit. For the most part, these are completed scenes, and do reveal a bit more about the story, whether through character exposition, or just facts that have not been revealed. A nice addition, best watched after the main feature, of course.

Gag Reel – A few lighter moments on set, showing behind the scenes footage of the actors, with a few genuinely funny clips. Brief, but a nice addition for the fans.

Audio Commentary – Directors Anthony and Joe Russo, and writers Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely delve deep into the making of the film, bringing together the many characters, settings, and story arcs we have all come to know over the last ten years, into one epic show down, an end game that will rock the entire MCU.

They talk not only of the current film and characters, but the MCU as a whole, imparting both story and filmmaking knowledge that is sure to appeal to fans and budding filmmakers alike. The commentary ties in well with other information contained in the bonus featurette videos, in the end giving the viewer a great overall understanding of the entire story and filming process.

Notable by their absence, are any sort of trailer for the main feature. Trailers are a small loss, but one that many viewers do enjoy.

Packaging

Packaging for the two Blu-Ray discs is pretty standard. There is a poster on the front, with logo and headshots of the primary characters. The back has a short synopsis, a listing of the bonus features, and the usual technical information and logos.

The discs are not held overly tight inside, meaning there is no risk of damaging them when removing.

There are, however, no package inserts of any sort, but with the detailed and informative way things such as scene selection are handled on the disc, this would not really be needed.

Black Panther Giveaway This Month

Wakanda Forever !!

Black Panther, from Marvel and Disney, that soared to new heights at the South African box office, making history, is now available to purchase for your home movie collection, with Avengers: Infinity War following in the near future (watch our news pages for details).

Forming part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) the film is an integral part of the story that spans a decade of cinema.

And this August, SAMDB has the distinct pleasure of offering a giveaway of 5 copies of this epic tale, on DVD, to five of our fans / followers. All you have to do is like us on Facebook / Follow us on Twitter and either comment or tweet to tell us who your favourite Marvel character is, and why. See the links and embedded posts below.

Read the SAMDB review of Black Panther.

Please Note:

  • This giveaway is only open to persons living in South Africa
  • Names chosen, at random, will be contacted directly
  • The giveaway will be one copy of Black Panther, on DVD, and DVDs will be sent to chosen names by Disney South Africa
  • The five (5) persons chosen will be chosen at random from our fans and follows who tweet or comment.
  • You have until Friday 31 August 2018 to make these tweets or comments on our Facebook post or Twitter tweet.

SAMDB on Twitter – www.twitter.com/samoviedatabase

SAMDB on Facebook – www.facebook.com/samoviedatabase

Christopher Robin : Review

The name we all know, Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor – Beauty and the Beast, T2 Trainspotting), a family man, working-class. In the midst of much upheaval in his professional life, and trouble at home, he encounters his childhood friend Winnie-the-Pooh (Jim Cummings – Gnome Alone, Sing), who once again helps him discover what is important, and brings back some joy to his life.

With wife Evelyn (Hayley Atwell – Ant-Man, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael – Darkest Hour) at the family’s cottage where Christopher grew up, next to the 100 Acre Wood, Christopher is trying to get some work done. However, as fate would have it, Pooh travels to him as he can not find his friends Tigger (also Jim Cummings), Owl (Toby Jones – Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Atomic Blonde), Piglet (Nick Mohammed – The Martian), Roo (Sara Sheen), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), or Rabbit (Peter Capaldi – The Fifth Estate, World War Z).

As a film, Christopher Robin is a delight. It has a few moments that are a little darker than one would expect, but the way in which the characters are not only superbly created (looking both very life-like, and just as one would expect the toy to look), but they feel as if they belong in the real world. There are plenty of nostalgic moments, paying homage to the early days and cell drawn cartoons of Pooh and friends, and moments that are sure to bring a smile. The film is a feel good outing for the family, with the usual Disney message of love, and happiness, but there are so many more layers that one would not expect.

The London city setting makes for a great cityscape, contrasting the natural environment of The 100 Acre Woods, with all this as the backdrop to the computer generated characters, supported by the talents of the cast.

Should one want to brush up on some background to the characters, author of the book on Winnie the Pooh, and the real life Christopher Robin, the recently released disc of Goodbye Christopher Robin would make an entertaining, informative, yet slightly more adult precursor to this current cinematic outing.

Christopher Robin is a delightful Disney release, full of smiles, an entertaining story, and a film that leaves one both feeling good and reflecting on life.

Christopher Robin opens 3 August 2018 in South African cinemas.

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (IMAX 3D) : Review

IMF leader Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise – American Made, The Mummy), and his team of Luther Stickell (Ving Rhames – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation), Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg – Ready Player One, Star Trek: Beyond), are once again on a mission to save the world. And once again the various government and spy agencies are working their own agenda, and once again there are villains set to create global chaos.

Throw into this mix a possible threat on Julia Meade-Hunt (Michelle Monaghan – Patriots Day, Pixels), an encounter with Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson – Life, The Girl on the Train), agent August Wlker (Henry Cavill – Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) who is forced on the team by the CIAs Erica Sloan (Angela Bassett – Black Panther), much to the chagrin of the IMF’s Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin – The Boss Baby, Paris Can Wait), and you have the beginnings of an action ride that kicks off right at the opening scenes, and sustains this pace right until the end credits roll.

With each successive film in the series, we are treated to even more action, more explosions, but thankfully still a story, albeit a very complex and convoluted one.

There is palpable tension Fallout, but a few moments where the story is a little too predictable, be it a fight or a plot twist. But why quibble over big reveals, and story points. It’s Mission: Impossible. You’re there for a ride, and you’re there to have fun. And on those two points, there is an abundance.

The fights are thrilling, and the stunts huge. Enjoy the film as it’s meant to be seen, on IMAX 3D, rather than waste money on the all too many cinemas in South Africa who are failing miserably when it comes to providing a proper experience with the technology they have on hand.

A fun outing in the Mission: Impossible universe, with non-stop action, that doesn’t disappoint, especially on the very big screen.

Mission: Impossible: Fallout opens 27 July 2018, in South African cinemas.

 

Skyscraper : Review

Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson – Rampage, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), ex-FBI hostage rescue team leader, US war veteran, and father, is on assignment in Hong Kong to assess the security of in the world’s tallest, safest building. Yet, he soon finds himself in trouble, and trying to escape both the hired guns of a master criminal, local authorities, and having to rescue his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and children, Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell) in the building, now ablaze.

So, what does one expect from a movie named Skyscraper, starring action man The Rock? It’s action, fights, stunts, and disaster from start to finish. Yes, Dwayne Johnson can act, but in Skyscraper we’re not bothered by complex plots or drama. We get non-stop adrenaline, super-human feats, and over the top heroes. We get one fast paced ride that is sure to thrill. And we get some nostalgia, taking us back to the action movies of the 80s and 90s. We get fun.

Skyscraper has a pretty straight forward plot. Nothing too intricate, yet still plausible (save for some death defying stunts, of course). It’s an escape from the daily drudgery of life, and a chance to relax and be thrilled.

Have we seen this before? Probably. It’s modern, yet one can see echos of Die Hard, The Towering Inferno, and countless template movies. But, this is still not one to miss.

Other than Johnson, it’s great to see Neve Campbeel take an outing on the big screen once again, with her talent not on show nearly enough.

Skyscraper, a fast paced, fun filled ride. Worthy of cheer, and thrilling to the very end.

Skyscraper opens 13 July 2018 in South African cinemas.

Ant-Man And The Wasp (3D) : Review

Following the events of Ant-Man, and further along, Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang / Ant-Man (Paul Rudd – Sausage Party, Ant-Man) is now suffering the consequences of the decisions he made, and the support he lent to be a hero. Yet, Lang is also fighting another battle, that of family and father.

Soon, he is approached very persuasively, by Hope van Dyne / Wasp (Evangeline Lilly – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and her father, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas – Last Vegas) with an mission that will ripple through the world of many, affecting countless lives, as Lang must now not only overcome personal obstacles, but needs to learn to work as a team as the choices of the past catch up to all.

Ant-Man and the Wasp, while possible to watch with one’s only background being the first Ant-Man film, forms part of the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), meaning that there are not only many references in the story, based on its placement in time, but several small, and some large, setups that will forward the MCU major story arch, as a whole. Most certainly, the aforementioned films would stand one in good stead, to watch. As would the recent Avengers: Infinity War.

While the film is an adventure, it contains the usual small dose of inter-personal drama, and plenty of humour. Played out with a plethora of locations, and imaginative plot devices, manifested by some amazing special effects. A thoroughly engrossing story, that will both thrill and entertain. As with all films in the MCU, stay for the end credit scenes. You’ve been warned.

As entertaining as Ant-Man and the Wasp is, a word of caution. This is best seen in a decent cinema, where the staff care about the viewer experience, and not a cinema where after many complaints, they are as yet still unable to screen a 3D movie. With a preview screening at Cavendish being so dark that many scenes were closer to listening to radio. And yet being so dark, things got progressively darker towards the right of screen, where the image then bled off the screen. How, in these modern times, with technology and technicians, can this not be fixed? Simple solution, avoid this cinema. They don’t want to show a film properly, so go elsewhere. With tickets costing a pretty penny, why should consumers suffer? It’s not a dark film, it’s a poor quality cinema.

That being said, if one could actually see the film properly, it is a fun film, and well worth an evening out with the family for some Marvel enjoyment.

Ant-Man and the Wasp opens 6 July 2018 in South African cinemas.