Movie Review – Wonder Woman (2017)

TL;DR – While not revolutionary per se, DC finally found a formula that works, and realised that there is no point moving a universe ahead if the individual movies don’t work.

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

P.S. – There is NO mid/post credit sequence

Wonder Woman (2017)

Review

So if you have read my reviews for Suicide Squad or Batman v Superman you would probably know that unfortunately, I have not had the best time with the DC Expanded Universe so far. Now when it comes to DC v Marvel I have no skin in the game, I want both to succeed, and I only care about if the movie is good or not, and so far DC just has not made a compelling entry into this expanded universe of theirs. Well, that is until now. Is Wonder Woman a perfect film, no of course not, but it is logically structured, emotionally resonant, and filled with fascinating characters, which is a huge step in the right direction. Now as we go one we will keep this as spoiler free as possible, however, we do need to discuss the ending, but we will clearly mark them so that you can avoid them it if you want.

So let’s set the scene, all her life Diana (Gal Gadot) knew the story of her birth, that her mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) moulded her out of clay and prayed to Zeus (the last of the Greek Gods after Aires went on a rampage) and he gave her life. Diana was the only child in Themyscira the home of the Amazons a race of immortal protectors who were hidden on Themyscira by Zeus. As Diana grew she was trained in the martial arts by her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright) for the day she would have to save her people and the world from the vengeful Aries. All of this seclusion is changed when Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes through the barrier separating Themyscira from the rest of the world unwittingly leading the Imperial German Navy right to them, and what was hidden cannot remain hidden anymore. Now putting aside that at the start of the film we get a flashback inside a flashback, flash-ception if you will, you have everything you need to tell a great story from this opening. You have young Diana knowing that she is destined to protect the world but incredibly naïve as to what it is like, you have family trying to protect her, but in different ways, and you have Steve who both shatters her world, but also justifies it.

Wonder Woman (2017) 1

The whole cast is giving their all here

Now Wonder Woman is set during the ending days of World War One when it was clear that Germany and its Allies were going to lose the war and were desperately trying to find something to stave off defeat. General Erich Ludendorff (Danny Huston) in that moment of desperation turned to Doctor Maru (Elena Anaya) a chemical expert to find a gas that would kill even if you were wearing a gas mask. This is an interesting setting, one that we don’t actually see all that often in movies, unless it was a historical piece, most people usually set their work during World War Two, as it has a much clearer motivation. However here WW1 does work quite well because, for one, it creates the kind of moral ambiguity, or at least tries to, which helps with the story, and because a lot of work has gone into getting the setting to look right. Indeed one of the absolute standouts in Wonder Woman is the locations and the sets. Themyscira blends an ancient world with lush surrounds, London has that dark industrial grittiness to it that makes it feel lived in, and the fields of Belgium give the full look at the war in all its awfulness, or at least in all its PG-13 awfulness. Today’s set can have that slight oddness to them that show when you are just walking around a green screen, and while yes there is some of that here, it is also good to see sets that feel tangible, lived in, and it is a credit to the locations manager, and the set/props/costume people that made them real.

Now one of the big issues with the past films is that all the exposition and emotional development of the characters felt either forced, or was not in keeping with the character, or sometimes both … “Martha”. Thankfully this is one area where they have learned from their mistakes because every character has a clear motivation, and every emotional beat in the film is earned. Now part of this is the script of course, but also it is also in part due to the many strong performances throughout the film. Gal Gadot as the titular Wonder Woman has to do a lot of the heavy emotional lifting and she shows that she is more than up to the task. Part of why the character works as well as it does is that we have a clear arc that is understandable and this range is shown in Gal’s performance. I was really glad to see Chris Pine really having fun with the role, I’ve not really been a fan of his acting, it has always felt a bit stiff, but he really came into his own in Star Trek Beyond and he continues it here. Chris plays a really conflicted character really well, once again we understand his motivations, because he behaves as a rational person would in the situation. While the core of this film is the relationship between Diana and Steve, and there are some amazing exchanges here, the world is also made up of some fascinating supporting characters. We didn’t get to see a lot of her but I loved Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), when it comes to the Amazons I would have liked to have seen a bit more of them but I loved the interplay between Antiope and Hippolyta on what it means to be a good parent. Also the little group they form all have clear back stories that set up their characters with very little dialogue which was great to see. Though I would have liked to see a bit more from the villains who hinted a bit more depth to their characters but never quite got there.

The action sequences are wonderfully constructed

The action sequences are wonderfully constructed

Now while the story and characters were good, another area where the film excelled was in the action sequences. Now I’m not saying they were revolutionary, but they were competently put together and flowed in a clear and concise manner. There is such a range of action in this film from bows and arrows through to the peak of military technology in WW1, this means you get some really interesting matchups that you would not normally see. From a technical side, I did like the use of slow-mo added in to highlight key moments of the action. It helps give those key moment impact, especial when paired with Diana’s faster than normal speed, so you get these moments of high frenetic activity followed by the moment to take it all in before the person gets smacked on the head by a shield. The action is supported by an amazing musical score by Rupert Gregson-Williams, now you might be a bit sick of that guitar riff they have been using in all the trailers but when you hear it in the film it just hits right at the best moment. Look the combination of the action and the music leads to a number of ‘oh damn that’s cool’ moments throughout the film. However, while I did enjoy the action there were two small issues that did draw me out of the film a little bit. There were a couple of times when it was clear that it was not Gal Gadot or a stunt double but rather a CGI model fighting on screen. Now, this is not really a big deal on the wide shots, but the CGI model was also used on more medium shots and it was quite clear that it was not real, suspension of disbelief will only get you so far. As well as this, the movie did feel more than a little sanitised, especially given its war setting. Now I know that this was a PG-13 film and as such there are certain restrictions at play and what you can show that the film was obliged to follow because there is no way they would want to risk a higher rating, which is understandable, but don’t draw attention to it. [Spoilers] For example, at one point Diana impales someone with a sword and the sword goes right through their chest and through the floor and is left protruding out of the roof of the room below.I the next scene we see Diana walk underneath and look up at this sword lodged in the roof and it is spotless, not a drop of blood [End of Spoilers]. Look I know not every film can or should be Logan, but in a post-Logan world don’t draw attention to the fact that you can’t show blood when we know it should be there.

Now while I did really like the film there were some issues that I did find held it back a little bit and since part of that is the ending there will be [Spoilers] for the rest of the paragraph. The first issue I had was with the WW1 setting, not because I don’t think that is a good time to set your film, but that it kind of feels like the film was originally meant to be set in WW2 and someone decided to change it to WW1 to stop any comparisons with the first Captain America film which follow a similar trajectory. This lead to Imperial Germans standing in for the Nazi’s, which is fine, but there are issues with the story that would have been fixed or elevated if they kept the original setting. For example, the way General Erich Ludendorff/ Doctor Poison is presented fits much better with the Nazi army than it does with the Imperial German Army used in this film. Also, General Erich Ludendorff is a real person that lived, and while a very complicated and problematic man, his depiction here does not seem to line up. Now while this is just a small factor it is felt much more clearly in the final moments of the film which give a very kumbaya feeling, however it is all immediately undercut by the fact that the much, much, much worse WW2 is only a couple of years away, and if that was set at the end of WW2 it would have felt a bit more appropriate. As well as this, a number of the key plot points were a bit predictable, though I will take predictable over nonsensical any day.[End of Spoilers]

The locations are beautiful

The locations are beautiful

In the end, I really did like Wonder Woman, to the point that I am almost a little cautiously optimistic that the Justice League film might actually work. Going forward I hope DC takes the lessons learned here about what makes a good film, you need good casting (which DC has always done), you need passionate people both in and behind the camera (which is already there), but you need to realise that films need to hold up on their own merits before you force them to push the franchise along, and most importantly it is all about the story. So do I recommend Wonder Women, you bet I do, it is the best non-Lego film DC has done since The Dark Knight and I really hope this is the start of better films for DC/WB going forward.

 

Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Patty Jenkins
Screenplay by – Allan Heinberg
Story By – Zack Snyder, Allan Heinberg & Jason Fuchs
Based onWonder Woman by William Moulton Marston, & Characters by DC
Music by – Rupert Gregson-Williams
Cinematography by – Matthew Jensen
Edited by – Martin Walsh
Starring
– Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Elena Anaya, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Lucy Davis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Eugene Brave Rock & Ewen Bremner
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13

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Movie Review – Doctor Strange

TL;DR – This is visually one of the best Marvel films ever produced, strong cast, overall a great film, though I do have to say these Marvel films are starting to feel a bit safe.

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

P.S. There is a mid and end credit sequence

Review

Well, this Marvel machine keeps on churning, earlier this year we had the fantastic Captain America: Civil War [See Review] which at the time of writing is still on track to be my film of the year, but now Marvel takes a different tack and jumps into the world of the ‘mystical’. In many respects, Doctor Strange is an interesting film because at times it is almost at arms distance from the rest of the cinematic universe, yet also it is almost the most ‘Marvel’ film Marvel has put out.

Doctor Strange tells the story of Dr Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) a brilliant yet incredibly self-absorbed neurosurgeon, how self-absorbed you say? well, the movie goes to the extent of having him shrug off helping an Army veteran because it was too easy. Of course, the movie almost immediately punishes Strange by throwing him off a cliff, this is why you should never get distracted whilst driving, as the end credits reminds us. So Dr Strange is a man that depends on the skill of his hands to do his job, and of course, that’s where he receives the most severe nerve damage. It’s that most ancient of thing irony, or like many prophetic figures from history once they lose the thing that means the most for them they discover more to life than things. Now of course you would have thought this accident would have meant that Strange would have lost his ego and stopped being such an ass to his on again, off again partner Christine Palmer (Rachel McAdams), well you’d be wrong, but it does send him on his path to meet The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and Masters Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Master Wong (Benedict Wong).

Doctor Strange 1.jpg

So before we go on we need to talk about the thing that Doctor Strange excels in and that is the visual effects. This is the most visually impressive film Marvel has ever produced and that is comparing it to Civil War which had twelve superheroes duking it out for half the film. From the opening sequence you know this is going to be a heavy visual effects movie, and that’s not really unsurprising given this is a film is about sorcerers, but it does not prepare you for what is about to come. Where the film really excels is in the ‘mirror realm’ sequences where reality bends but only for those in the realm. So this means we get cities bending and tearing themselves apart, and gravity becoming quite flexible. In many respects it’s like they looked at Inception (a movie I love) and went, you know what let’s go further. As well as the mirror realm, we also get multiple spirit realms which might be the culmination of decades of work in cinema trying to depict an acid trip on film. Part of why the visual effects work is that all the actors commit to them, waving your hands around in the air is just silly until you add the effects on top of it, and it is hard for many in the business to pull off a convincing performance out of nothing. Another highlight must be a certain item of clothing which might be my favourite character in all of the film. For me, the best visual effects come in the final climactic part of the film, so it would be too spoilery to discuss here, but frankly I found them to be amazing. Everyone at Industrial Light and Magic deserves the coming Oscar nomination for their work here. I also liked that they actually went to Kathmandu to film the sequences there, it is such a vibrant and fascinating city which you just shouldn’t fake with a redress of southern Vancouver. The only issue with the visual effects I saw was some odd ragdoll at the start of the film but other than that everything worked well.

The other area the film excels in is in the casting and character creation, and that was not an easy job given the source material. Like Iron Man 3 with The Mandarin (which to go on record I loved the twist in IM3 with this character), a lot of the supporting cast in Doctor Strange comic are just racial stereotypes. So I liked the way they approached it here, which of course was always going to be a controversial no matter what they did. Firstly by having Benedict Wong, you can’t go wrong, he is one of Hollywood’s real up and coming actors and gives every role from the director of JPL in the Martian [See Review] to a commanding presence in Marco Polo, and he gives any role a layer of gravitas. Also while clearly controversial, I think it was a good choice to pick Tilda Swinton to play The Ancient One, because even though you are replacing a Tibetan man in the comics with a white women in the movie, Tilda Swinton is one of the best actresses in the world and she owns this complicated role. Now of course when you cast Mads Mikkelsen as you main villain Kaecilius you know you are going to get quality and there is no change with that here.

doctor-strange-3

Now, of course, we can’t discuss a movie like Doctor Strange without discussing Dr Strange, and everyone’s favourite Benedict Cumberbatch. While Mr Cumberbatch has played a number of amazing roles, Sherlock, Alan Turing etc. but like anyone in the business he can also be miscast or just cast because of he has a powerful baritone voice like in Star Trek Into the Darkness, however, I am glad to say in Doctor Strange he excels. From the start of the film he plays the ego obsessed surgeon incredibly well, but the character has to go through quite a transformation throughout the film, and if the actor could not pull off that arc the film would have fallen apart. This being said, there were some missed opportunities, it felt like they didn’t use Rachel McAdams to her full potential, and you have the amazing Scott Adkins as just one of the goons, and while his has a good fight scene, he is an amazing physical actor and I wish they had used him more.

While the visual effects were amazing, and the casting and characters were great, one area where the film did not hold up was in the story. Look I’m not saying the story was bad, because it’s not, it’s just well so very safe. For example, Mordo is played fantastically by Chiwetel Ejiofor, however, you will probably be able to chart his entire arc from the start of the film. This happens with a lot of the characters, mostly because we have seen most of these arcs before. [SPOILERS]Also gee you have a character called Jonathan Pangborn played by Benjamin Bratt who might as well had a sign over plastered over his head saying I will be more important than we are letting on [END SPOILERS]. While I really enjoy the Marvel films, and while each of them still finds different tones and areas to occupy, like Ant-Man [See Review] being a heist film, however, over time they have started to feel more and more formulaic. So while there is only one real mention of anything Marvel related until the final act, this still feels like the most Marvel, Marvel film so far. I really feel that Marvel needs to start to take some more risks, and given this was a film that was delving into the spiritual side of things, something the rest of the Marvel franchise has mostly ignored, it felt like a missed opportunity. On this vein when you have Michael Giacchino composing your music, the same Michael Giacchino who composed the stunning Star Trek Beyond [See Review] soundtrack, it is a bit disappointing to see the music just not work as well as it could, once again it felt safe, though there were some moments of greatness, especially with the use of a harpsichord.

doctor-strange-2

Now as I said I did really like Doctor Strange, it is visually stunning and has an amazing cast, and all being said it is still one of the better films I have seen all year so far. Also, let’s be real for a moment Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is still blowing DC’s Justice League out of the water. However, at this point, I would just like them to be a bit more adventurous than what they are, but how many franchises have had this many strong films for this long, not even Bond has pulled that off. In the end, the best comment I can give Doctor Strange is that I am really interested in the characters and universe they have created here, and I can’t wait to see where they go with it in Phase 4.

 

Directed by – Scott Derrickson
Written by – Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill
Based onDoctor Strange by Steve Ditko & Stan Lee
Music by – Michael Giacchino
Starring – Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Benedict Wong, Mads Mikkelsen, Scott Adkins, Benjamin Bratt & Tilda Swinton
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG13

Movie Review – Suicide Squad

TL;DR – Sigh, oh DC, it really looked like you tried on this movie, but boy the best that you can do is an aggressively mediocre outing that adds nothing to the franchise, and as a self-contained film – well you can do a lot worse, but you can also do a lot better.

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

P.S. There is a mid-credits scene

Review

When it comes to that whole DC v Marvel comics rivalry which seems to permeate the internet these days, for me this was one of those arguments that was never really a factor in my life growing up. This is because we didn’t really get the comics where I lived, but what we did get was the animated series, like X-Men and Batman, and they were not aired in competition with each other, and indeed sometimes aired on the same TV channel. So growing up you were not a DC or Marvel person, it was more “did you see that episode yesterday”, I feel I really need to start with this up front because I really want this Justice League series to work, I really do. However I don’t think Suicide Squad is the film that will do it, and in fact all it does is show that DC/WB just don’t seem to know how to get this movie series off the ground. At best it is average, and at worse it is quite problematic, but in the end it is not really all that engaging and you’ll probably forget most of it within a day of watching it.

At the core of Suicide Squad is an interesting question – How would the US government deal with a world where Superman could just rip the entire armed forces apart by himself if he wanted to? I really like the realm of politics, so these types of questions really interest me, so this should have been a clear no brainer to hook me and bring me on board, but once you are hooked there is not much there. So what was America’s response to this changing world, well, and this is not really a spoiler because it is the name of the film, for Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) it was to find a bunch of ‘bad people’ that she could manipulate through leverage to become a squad that could take out ‘meta-human’ threats. So far so good, you have a good idea, you have a good cast (mostly), and you have a good IP with a rich history to draw from, so what could go wrong?

Margot Robbie is one of the better things of this movie playing Harley Quinn

Margot Robbie is one of the better things of this movie playing Harley Quinn

Well before we go there, let’s look at the things that actually do work well, firstly the casting, and generally speaking I think they got this right. Will Smith as Deadshot brings an air of class to the role and a world of experience, though it does feel that he is playing Will Smith super assassin and less Deadshot, but given it is Will Smith he pulls it off. I also quite enjoyed Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn, she gives a manic energy to her role and as she showed in Tarzan, Margot has the ability to shine even if the rest of the film is quite average. Also Cara Delevingne is really good at bring out the duel nature of the Enchantress, she may have the most expressive face in Hollywood at the moment and she uses it to full effect. There is also some interesting stylistic choices, I do like the use of fluro, and the montage at the start of the film was really well put together. Also the use of music throughout the film was quite good for the most part.

This scene does not make it to the final cut of the movie

This scene does not make it to the final cut of the movie

Now the problems, and I will touch a little bit on the story in this section, so if you want to go into this blind then you may want to skip to the last paragraph. So the story, well it is a bit better than Batman v Superman, in that they don’t have as many “Your mum is named Martha too” moments, but it still has some really lazy plot progression. For example [spoiler] the team is outfitted with explosive implants that go off if they misbehave, and moments before they go on their big adventure a new character is introduced that you have not seen before and one minute later they are dead via explosive implant, it was so trivial to be almost laughable. Another issue I had with this film is how ridiculously inept all the people who are meant to be in positions of authority are. Like [spoiler] the warden (Ike Barinholtz) of the most secure prison in America, also has massive gambling debts to the mafia, I mean come on, or how they think having the military head of the squad Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman) be in a romantic relationship with one of the members is actually a good idea, you don’t have to be a fortune teller to know that it would be a bad idea. Finally the big boss Waller, starts off with a standard pragmatic, tough as nails persona, but as the movie goes on she engages in actions that makes you wonder how it is possible that she would ever be given top secret information. Also can we take a moment to talk about the Joker (Jared Leto), now the Joker is a role that would be very difficult to cast, and nearly everyone has their favourite Joker from Cesar Romero to Jack Nicholson to Mark Hamill to Heath Ledger, but I don’t think Leto will be anyone’s favourite well at least not from this movie. Part of this just might be the very short amount of time we see him on screen, so we don’t get a really good sense of him, but for me the role fell a bit flat.

Much the same as it is hard not to compare Batman v Superman and Captain America given there remarkable similarities (see here), it is also hard not to compare Suicide Squad with Guardians of the Galaxy. When watching the film you can’t help but see the similarities – [spoiler] a group of bad guys thrust together not of their own making who end up becoming a team and … well comparisons continue but then we would be getting into too spoilery territory. They even use one of the main songs from Guardians, which only has the effect of reminding the audience of a better film they could be watching. Now part of this is not really Suicide Squad’s fault because Marvel just simply got out of the gates first so you can’t help but compare, however, if the phrase “like Guardians of the Galaxy but…” was no used in the pitch meeting I will be very surprised. We also see this in the conflicted tone, Suicide Squad does not know if it wants to be light and comical, or dark and brooding, and that leads to a bit of a disconnect throughout the film.

In the end today I watched Suicide Squad, and I watched a play through of the new Telltale Batman game, and if I had the choice I would have only have watched the Batman game, which is not a ringing endorsement, indeed save yourself the time and money and watch the same play-through, you’ll probably enjoy it more.

Directed by – David Ayer
Written by – David Ayer
Based on – Characters from DC Comics
Starring – Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Joel Kinnaman, Viola Davis, Jai Courtney, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Cara Delevingne, Karen Fukuhara, Scott Eastwood, David Harbour, and Ben Affleck
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; NZ: M; UK: 15; USA: PG-13

Movie Review – X-Men: Apocalypse

TL;DR – Ok straight off the bat this is not as good as the last two, but it is still a pretty good outing for the X-Men, and leagues ahead of the Last Stand

Score – 2.5 out of 5 stars

P.S. there is a post credit scene

 

 

Review –

So here we are with the six main film in the X-Men franchise, we’ve had one franchise killer, we’ve had one reboot, and a resurgence, so can Apocalypse continue the strong trend of First Class and Days of Future Past? Well no. Now I’m not saying it is a bad film or indeed that it is pulling a Spectre, for indeed it is quite good, it is just not quite as good as its predecessors.

So it has been 10 years since the Days of Future Past, Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) has finally set up his School for good this time with Hank (Nicholas Hoult), Magneto (Michael Fassbender) has been hiding out in communist Poland settling down with a family, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) is now on a one-woman mission to free Mutants in trouble, oh and the most powerful mutant in history Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) is about to be woken up to reign destruction down on all, thanks, Moira (Rose Byrne).

All of the Prequels could be summed up with 'Eric should have talked to Charles first'

All of the Prequels could be summed up with ‘Eric should have talked to Charles first’

This is a good film because so much of it just works, we have the return of some familiar, if younger, characters with Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee), indeed Nightcrawler is a standout thought the film. There are some really good action sequences, with the opening montage in Ancient Egypt being maybe the best mutant sequence we have seen in the entire franchise. Also every time Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is on the screen you know it is going to be good. Most of the CGI is quite good with particle effects that would have been impossible to do not that long ago. This is one of the stronger performances I have seen of Michael Fassbender, both he and James McAvoy get the characters of Professor X and Magneto, and it really helps sell their motivations. There were some interesting new characters, it was good to see a more international focus for the film, with most of it happening outside of the USA, and if you think I am going to give you bonus points for using Jubilee’s (Lana Condor) classic costume from the animated TV series, then you were correct.

However, while this is a good film, there a number of things that stop it from being a great film. Something felt a bit off with Mystique and Beast’s prosthetics, they looked a bit faker than the last movies, it’s really a bit odd. Also, and maybe this is more superhero fatigue in me than just this movie, but I am getting tired of the destruction porn. This is the way many movies in this general almost fetishize the destruction of buildings and cities. It might just be the leftover annoyance of Batman v Superman or indeed maybe the fact that Civil War showed you can do a superhero film without ripping a city to pieces. I only bring this up because the film really glosses over the about of deaths that would be happening, like all those buildings were just empty shells, I would say the death toll would be in the millions for this film. Also, Apocalypse just does not work as a bad guy for me in this film, he was completely lacking any charisma or presence. Look I know Oscar Isaac can do charisma and presence, see Star Wars, and I don’t know if it was the direction or the prosthetics that let him down, but it was a good thing he was surrounded by other more interesting characters like Psylocke (Olivia Munn).  Also, we all like Stan Lee Cameos, but this one was really off-putting, as it really messed with the tone of the scene. Finally, AND MAJOR SPOILER WARNING, the reveal of WX should have been the best part of the entire film, but he looked so stupid in that fake plastic looking headpiece that it undercut all the badassness of the sequence, seriously what were they thinking, it looked like it was a plastic toy from the 70s, also the big bad’s plan made no sense what so ever.

Yep, this was as good as you thought it was

Yep, this was as good as you thought it was

So, in the end, do I recommend X-Men Apocalypse, yes, I think there is enough of a good film there that you will enjoy yourself, but what it does not do is hold up with the best of the franchise, X-Men 2, Days of Future Past and Deadpool. But that being said, I am still very interested to see where they go from here because they are catching up to X-Men 1 in the timeline.
 

Directed by – Bryan Singer
Screenplay by – Simon Kinberg
Story by –  Bryan Singer, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris & Simon Kinberg
Based on – X-Men by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Starring – James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Rose Byrne, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Olivia Munn, Evan Peters, Alexandra Shipp, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Josh Helman & Hugh Jackman
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Ireland: 12A; NZ: M; UK: 12a, USA: PG-13

Movie Review – Captain America: Civil War

TL;DR – This is without a doubt the Marvel film so far, it gets the action right, the story right, the characters right, it is a fantastic film that I highly recommend.

Score – 5 out of 5 stars

P.S. There is a mid and end credits sequence

Review

Ok wow, what a film and so far the best film for 2016 and indeed the only one so far to get a 5/5 score. After the recent poor outing of Batman v Superman, I was wondering if Marvel could actually pull this off. Can they contrive a plausible reason these characters would be fighting, actually manage all the characters in a movie that is totally not Avengers 3, but let’s be honest, this is totally Avengers 3. However, I needn’t have been concerned, the Russo Brothers are masters of their craft and they show it here in spades. Ok to lay out how this review will go, the first part will just give a general spoiler-free analysis, and then in the second part we will be going full spoilers, there will be a warning so you can skip it if you have not seen the film.

The first thing that just works for Civil War is the story, it is a bit hard to analysis the story without getting into spoilers, but we will stick to only things that happen at the start of the film and more broad generalisations. So Captain America opens in 1991 where Bucky Barnes (Sabastian Stan) then the mind washed Winter Solder is woken up and reprogrammed again and sent on a kill and retrieve order to obtains some blue liquidy medicalish containers from a car travelling down a quiet country road. We then jump to the present day when Captain America (Chris Evans), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are preparing to take out Rumlow (Frank Grillo) the last Hydra henchmen left from the last film, before he steals a biological weapon from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control. It’s in this first fight that we see the tone of the film, actions have consequences, the past will come to haunt people, the world is kind of getting sick of the Avengers trashing the place, and in probably the first time since Iron Man 2 Black Widow is kicking ass. It is a great opening because it reminds the audience of all the big players, what their skill sets are, where they sit in the world and their relationships with each other. While not getting into specifics, the issue that starts to drive the Avengers apart (ok that’s not a spoiler, it is literally mentioned in the title of the film) is an organic issue, one that feels plausible in this situation, and it is an issue that it would be easy to have two sides. Overall the story has a strong narrative structure and plays out a bit better that the Avengers: Age of Ultron, as it avoids an awkward second act. Given everything this movie has to do, it is remarkable that it actually works as well as it does, it has to get the ball rolling on Phase 3, it has to introduce new characters, continue the story of old characters, and feel like a well-contained story in its own right, and it does all of those things.

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For some the danger hits closer to home

Well talking about characters, one of the strengths of this film is the characters. For many of the cast, this is their 5th (or more) film, so they have a familiarity of their roles that lends confidence to their performances. You can feel the anguish of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) with the direction of his life and you sympathise with the emotional place he finds himself in. Indeed we care about these characters (because we have such a long history), so has much more impact when they do fight because we know them. Not to consistently compare this to the recent Batman v Superman, but this is where DC’s film fell flat, as it did not take the time to build the characters and relationships, and that is why Civil War has much more substance to the conflict. But enough about the old characters, how did the new ones go?, really great, and I will talk about that more in the spoilers section.

Now of course so far you might be thinking ‘well mate this film is sounding awful dreary’ and let me stop you there because it is anything but. Firstly, this is a really funny film at times, as in the entire audience of the cinema laughing at a joke funny, no polite chuckles here. As well as this, the action is top notch, this has some of the best-set piece moments in any Marvel film, and I must say someone must have had a bad time with a motorbike, they do not last in this film. I got concerned at the start that there was going to be a lot of bad shaky cam fights, but thankfully it was just a momentary problem. The CGI is all pretty much top notch, bar a couple of small things, a couple of aerial shots are clearly a bit fake, and there is also a very big uncanny valley moment in the film, but then I am not sure if that last one was meant to be intentional. So right now you might be asking with a title ‘Civil War’ does the action live up to the title, and my answer is yes, yes it does, much more than the 5-minute smash around some buildings, then bro out because our mothers have the same name rubbish we saw elsewhere.

If you just want to see the Avengers fight each other in interesting ways well you're covered here

If you just want to see the Avengers fight each other in interesting ways well you’re covered here

Ok now it is time to get into Full Spoiler Mode, you have been warned, skip over to the next paragraph if you have not seen the film. Ok so the only people reading at this point have seen the film.. ok let’s chat, and by a chat I mean I will spew forth thoughts about the movie. Tom Holland is hands down my favourite Spiderman on film, his energy is infectious and he has some of the best lines in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for the first time in a long time I am looking forward to a Spiderman film. Chadwick Boseman was fantastic as Black Panther, I was not sure if he had the presence to play the role after his mostly boring performance in Gods of Egypt, but he nails the mysterious T’Challa, and acts as a great ball of chaos for the plans for both Cap and Stark. The film gives every character their moment to shine, from Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) to Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to Vision (Paul Bettany) to War Machine (Don Cheadle) everyone feels like an integral part of the film. All of this would have led to Civil War being a good film but what elevated it to being a great film is the emotional heart of the centre of the film. You understand why everyone ended up on different sides of the fight, you understand why the rest of the world want to put controls on them, you understand why Cap would risk it all for Bucky, you understand why the Black Panther will risk it all to kill Bucky, you understand why the relationship between Cap and Stark becomes irreparably damaged for now, and most importantly you completely understand and can indeed sympathise with the main villain Zemo (Daniel Brühl). Zemo is probably one of the best bad guys that have graced the MCU, and most of all he feels real and he is someone you can sympathise with. A couple of small things, the giant Ant-Man was cool, but how do they put that genie back in the box for his next standalone film? Also, I have no idea what accent Martin Freeman was using as Everett Ross but it was off-putting. Finally, the one character that did feel a bit underused was Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp).  Ok now most of what we have been chatting about is not super spoiling but now I will be discussing the big reveal at the end of the film so Last Spoiler Warning if you have not seen the film progress no further. The third act of the film (post airport showdown) is what makes this film a classic, Cap and Stark are back on the same side, Zemo is surrounded, and in that moment you start to prep for the big battle sequence that the movie has been setting up since those blue medical vials were stolen and injected into those mercs. But then it hits you why did Zemo let slip his murder? that just worked against him, indeed all it did was bring everyone together, and then the penny drops, the super soldiers are a ruse, why they are all here is so Stark can watch a tape, a tape of his parent murder, who his parent that were murdered by, well if you have seen the film you know and then it all falls apart. This gives the last fight so much raw emotion, and it is everyone’s best performances, and it is such a risk, can you actually go back from that.

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Tom Holland is a delight as the new Spiderman

So here we are and once again the Russo Brothers have outdone themselves, Captain America Civil War is a great action film, it is a great ensemble film, it is a great Marvel film and most importantly it is a great Captain America film. I highly enjoyed it and I can highly recommend it.

Directed by – Anthony Russo & Joe Russo
Screenplay by – Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Based on – Captain America by Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
Starring – Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sabastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, Jermey Renner, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Emily VanCamp, Tom Holland, Martin Freeman, Frank Grillo, William Hurt & Daniel Brühl
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: M; UK: 12A, USA: PG-13

Movie Review – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

TL;DR – An utter mess of a film, disjointed, nonsensical, and a very poor foundation for DC to build their Justice League series on

Score – 2 out of 5 stars

Review

You know I wanted to be surprised by Batman v Superman, it looked rushed, it looked like they had not given enough thought before rushing ahead with their Avengers competition, it looked like they were making all the same mistakes Sony made with Spiderman, but still, I wanted to like it, but alas this is an incoherent mess of a film with only momentary glimpses of being any good. To get us started, Batman v Superman starts with us experiencing the climax of the last film from Bruce Wayne’s (Ben Affleck) perspective, we then jump forward to two years later where a bat vigilante is attacking criminals in Gotham across the bay from Metropolis, Lois Lane (Amy Adams) is in Africa being the damsel in distress (a role she will be stuck in for this film) and everyone else is politely pretending that Clark Kent and Superman (Henry Cavill) are not the same person.

Now before we go on I should state that there was an annoying child sitting right behind me talking very loudly and which his parents were not telling to shush, so maybe that might have affected my engagement with this film, I mean I don’t think so, but it would be remiss of me not to let it be known. So what went wrong, well a lot of things, and I’m going to go through them now, but I will be more than likely ripping this film to shreds, so if you are a fan of DC then I am sorry, but it’s coming and kind of not my fault.

For a big budget film the CGI feels really stands out at times

For a big budget film the CGI feels really stands out at times

Let’s start with the action, while there are a couple of good action sequences (in fact they save the film from being a complete write off) the action is mostly forgettable. For one, it follows the school of movie making that if you cut a sequence together where the shot changes every half a second, then you will have a fast paced action sequence, no you really don’t, you get an incomprehensible mess. As well as this, the staging of the action feels amateur, you can see the mechanics working, there are no wow moments or moments or any real surprise. Also given the title, I think many people are going to find action severely lacking.

When it comes to the effects, sure some are ok but for a film of this stature, some of the effects look like they deserve to be on TV rather than a big budget film. The Capitol Building looks laughably fake, and you will see things that are meant to be bodies but are clearly dummies. In many respects the film just looks a bit, well, underdeveloped, there are some quite iconic shots, but those that do look good only do so because the director is being influenced or in some cases outright stealing iconic imagery from history and film. For example, in the opening moments of the film, they make a clear reference to some of the footage from September 11. For those of us old enough to remember that day it is quite chilling until you realise what is happening. As well as this, Gal Gadot’s characters big reveal felt blow for blow like Black Widow’s introduction in Iron Man 2

They don't give him much to do, but Ben Affleck is a good Batman

They don’t give him much to do, but Ben Affleck is a good Batman

Ok in this next part I am going to talk about the story, and simply there is no way to do that spoiler free, so jump to the next paragraph if you want to avoid spoilers. This film fails in part because it is trying to do too much, and on the other, because it does not do enough. There are some many things crammed into this movie that even if they had a good story (which they don’t) it would be a very disjointed film. Since there is not a good story, I mean they took the worse Superman story from the comics and through it up on screen, it ends up being a bunch of unconnected scenes that somehow all joins together at the end but not really. There is no care to provide adequate motivations for any of the characters in this film, why is Lex Luther (Jesse Eisenberg) doing this, maybe daddy issues but really why? The characters feel forced into situations rather than there being a natural flow to the story, “and now Superman and Batman fight” “why” “because it is that point in the film and we need them to”. Ok now we are going to get into super heavy duty spoilers, so seriously, if you ignored the last warning, this is really now your last warning incoming spoilers. The ending of the film is just plain stupid, firstly, as I said it uses the most stupid plotline from the comics and makes it the climax of the film. Seriously if you want to see how stupid it is Watch This but super spoilers here, also language warning. Secondly, they could not even commit to it, by the end of the film they were already walking back from it, undercutting the little bit of weight the film might of actually had and any kind of intrigue going further. In the end, the big problem is that DC/Warner Bros, wanted so much to be Marvel/Disney, but they forgot the key thing that Marvel did that led to them being so successful time and patience. Between the first Marvel Film and their first big crossover there were four years and six films and given this is the DC version of the upcoming Civil War they are trying to cram eight years and 13 films worth of substance into two. Why should we care that Superman is fighting Batman? We have had no build up to this point, with Civil War, I care about the outcome, here, honestly after this film, I could not care less, well maybe a little, but not much.

Is there any good, well yes, I would not have given it that high a rating if it was all bad. Jesse Eisenberg is quite captivating as Lex, given how little he is given, what he does with it is quite good (though there is no way they would let anyone that clearly unstable within a kilometre of anything classified). Gal Gadot is really quite captivating as Diane Prince, and her upcoming film is the only one that I am interested in given her performance here. Also while Ben Affleck is no Captain America, he is a serviceable Batman.

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Don’t know quite what they were doing with Lex

In the end, can I recommend this film, no, and that is really disappointing for me. I really hope DC takes a step back and really works on making this franchise shine. Will people go and see a film just because it has Batman or Superman in the title? maybe, but not enough to continue a franchise like this in the long run.

Directed by –  Zack Snyder
Written by Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer
Based on – DC Comics
Starring – Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Gal Gadot, Jeremy Irons, Diane Lane & Laurence Fishburne
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: M; UK: 12A, USA: PG

Movie Review – Deadpool

TL;DR – Is it as good as its marketing campaign, no, that was pure genius, but it is still pretty darn good and a fun film to watch, though so so so so so not for kids.

Score – 4 out of 5 stars

P.S. yes there is something after the credits

Review

This is a really interesting film for a number of reasons, firstly most (if not all) comic book movies stick hard and fast to the American PG-13 rating, it’s safe and opens it up to a wider audience, instead, Deadpool went for its American R rating with gusto. It’s also a film that has to fit in the X-Men universe, but then it also has to stay true to the source which has a unique style that destroys the 4th wall at times. It has Ryan Reynolds as its lead, and unfortunately he doesn’t have many more chances left to be a headliner (after The Green Lantern, which to be fair was not his fault), it is also a film that has been in development hell since the early 2000s, taking a ‘leaked’ proof of concept trailer for people to greenlight the film. So here we are after a simply brilliant advertising campaign, what kind of film do we have? A pretty good one, but also a very adult film, I mean a very adult film, like seriously the whole 9 yards, like how did they get away with that, adult film.

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Deadpool lives up to the reputation of the Merc with the mouth

Firstly the good, the casting is top notch, Ryan Reynolds is captivating as the titular Deadpool which is really important in a film like this. You can tell he has a lot of passion for the role (he spent a decade trying to get this film made), he riffs well with the cast, a standout being with Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) who plays the more traditional hero, as compared to Deadpool’s more, um, aggressive style. It is kind of nice to see someone who really cares for something and appears to be a genially good guy succeed. Morena Baccarin (Vanessa Carlysle) plays off Reynolds really well as his equally damaged (in many ways) romantic interest. The fight scenes are quite good, some nice use of slow motion at times, and the final rumble was quite good, though the smaller budget shows in places. A tip of my hat to whoever designed the opening sequence, I have not laughed at credits like that since Monty Python.

Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus provide the perfect foils for Deadpool

Negasonic Teenage Warhead and Colossus provide the perfect foils for Deadpool

It’s not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, in its attempt to live up to the hype, it doesn’t quite get there. Not all the jokes land (though most do), and like all films that tend to the more comedic side of things, a lot of the really good ones were in the trailer, so they kind of lose their impact in the film. While it is not as big as of an offender of this that some other R comedic films, there still are a number of jump scare style jokes which get a bit tiresome. As well as this, the bad guys are really all a bit bland, most of them have no personality or are simply stereotypes, I mean, ‘my mutant ability is I can’t feel … anything’. As well as this Deadpool’s comedic relief Weasel (T. J. Miller) added nothing to the film really.

Be prepared, you'll see a lot of this (his ass) in the film

Be prepared, you’ll see a lot of this in the film

One of the big problems that Deadpool will have is that it is a very polarizing film of the people I have talked to etc. people either love it or hate it, so going forward it will be interesting to see if they double down on what people liked to try to reach out to a larger audience. In the end I enjoyed it, but then I really like that style of meta humour that you see in things like 22 Jump Street etc., but if you don’t like that meta humour then you have to like the kind of film where someone chases a bad guy down with a Zamboni for fun, if you don’t like that it’s going to be a hard film to sit through.

 

Directed by –Tim Miller
Screenplay by – Paul Wernick & Rhett Reese
Starring – Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić & Leslie Uggams
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Ireland: 16; NZ: R16; UK: 15; USA: R