The great thing about long-haul flights is it gives you loads of time to catch up on movies you might have missed. In-flight entertainment has moved way beyond the old days of a single film screened in front of everyone. Now you can choose from digital libraries that include recent releases and classics, all in multiple languages.

My recent trip gave me the chance to catch up on a few I missed in the cinema or decided to wait until they hit Netflix…

Passengers: the abusive relationship in outer space.

Chris Pratt is one of thousands of colonists in suspended animation when a freak accident causes him to be awoken. Small problem, he’s hundreds of years from his destination and totally alone on a ship with limited resources. After quietly going mad he becomes fixated on a fellow passenger and finally decides to awaken her.

The first two thirds of this are quite good. They explore the isolation of being stranded in a situation so hopeless that a lonely death is inevitable. Pratt’s obsession with and then awakening of Lawrence asks us whether we would have done differently. When she discovers what he’s done it then questions how we would react. Would we have overcome our hatred of the person and what they did to adopt a begrudging co-existence?

Unfortunately the last third descends into a bit of running around trying to save the ship from a catastrophic failure. Although this was building in the first acts it did grate a little and set up a reconciliation. That was disappointing as it went from a potentially tense psychological thriller to a fairly standard action film.

I’m not sure if this will make it to the shelves of the blu-ray collection, but I’ll certainly be watching it again when it pops up on a streaming service.

Alien Covenant: a return to form

The Alien franchise has been troubled. While there have been good ideas throughout, the quality of the films has slowly declined after James Cameron’s Aliens. Scott’s decision to restart it with Prometheus should’ve been welcome, but it was lacked down by some suspect casting in the lead and THAT ending.

Covenant has a difficult game to play because we all know what the Alien is and how it operates. Yet Scott manages to manipulate his audience with moments of genuine horror.

There are a few problems and the ending is a little telegraphed, but overall it’s a good addition to the canon and should set up a third film nicely.

Wonder Woman: not what I’d hoped for.

Diana, an Amazonian Princess living on a mystical island, is dragged into the First World War by American spy Chris Pine. Ever the warrior, she sets off for the front and an unsanctioned mission to destroy a German chemical weapon and defeat Ares, God of War. There’s lots of action, a fair bit of humour and that’s about it.

My daughters raved about this film, so I was looking forward to seeing it. Unfortunately I found it rather tiresome.

As an origin story it didn’t work as there was no real character development. The last half hour suffered from the Justice League trend of bathing everything in fire during a hugely destructive battle. There was a “twist” that was obvious from the moment the character turned up. Whoever directed the photography had also seen 300 way too many times.

Spider-man: entertaining romp with potential.

There’s no origin story here, which is just as well as I think that’s been done to death. Instead we see Peter Parker cope with not being an Avenger after his participation in Civil War. It builds through some nice action sequences and throws in some humour to make an entertaining romp.

As the first movie in what’s inevitably going to be a trilogy (plus Avengers appearances) this was a decent kick-off. Spidey’s wisecracking could’ve been dialled up a little, but I think Tom Holland has a lot of potential.

Logan: entertaining end to an era

Wolverine has been in every X-men film since the original. Sometimes that’s been a central role, occasionally little more than a cameo. Hugh Jackman has made it his own and has towered large across the franchise. Rather than let the old soldier fade away, they decided he should go out in a blaze of glory.

This is a good film. The plot’s simple, the small focal cast excellent (particularly the young Dafne Keen who does an excellent job of evolving from raw animal to troubled young girl) and there are some interesting premises, not least of which is what happens when Professor X develops dementia. It keeps moving at a sensible pace, pausing to let you catch up before rushing onto the next action sequence. Unlike Wonder Woman the conclusion doesn’t rely on big explosions, but offers a more intimate confrontation that leads to sacrifice.

Hugh Jackman will be missed in the role of Wolverine, but I think this was a fitting send off.

The Lego Batman Movie: holy plastic bricks!

I loved the original Lego Movie and it was inevitable Batman was going to get his own film. There is so much to enjoy in this film, from the mickey taking of past incarnations of the Caped Crusader to the digs at other superhero movies (the secret code to the batcave is “Iron Man Sucks!”)

It chugs along at a healthy speed and works on the basis if you don’t like this joke don’t worry because another one’s along in a few moments. As a result I was thankful for the noise in the cabin because I kept laughing out loud.

Excellent way to spend an hour and a half if all you want is to be entertained.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

At the risk of getting shot by loyal Potter fans, I couldn’t finish this film. I lasted about forty minutes before I switched it off. Aside from Eddie Redmayne’s dreadful Matt Smith impression, it had the feeling of a Peter Jackson attempt at turning a novella into a trilogy of 3 hour films.

One to avoid if you’re not a fan.

Long haul’s not so bad now

Yes, you have to watch the films on a small screen about 30 centimetres in front of you. Yes, the sound quality suffers (I used my own headphones to offset that a little). Occasionally there are pauses while announcements are made.

But these compromises are worth it to watch some reasonably recent films and make a long, otherwise boring journey more bearable.

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Who is Ross A Hall?

I'm a freelance designer and writer. My clients have included Fintech startups, publishers and digital agencies. You can read more about my work here.

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