Movies: Spider-Man: Homecoming Review

July 21, 2017

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to comic book characters, so I’ll hold my hands up and say that when it became obvious in the pre-credits sequence of Spider-Man: Homecoming that the Vulture would just be Michael Keaton in a some alien tech wing suit, I was disappointed.

I wanted an old bald bloke in a green leotard with wings.

But hey, you can’t have everything, and as it turned out, Keaton made it work, although that shouldn’t come as too much of a shock considering he’s been good in everything he’s appeared in since his career revival. For me, he was one of the best parts about the movie, along with Jacob Batalon as Peter Parker’s always-amusing best friend, Ned.

And it was a good movie.

Rebooting the Spiderman series yet again in such a short space of time was a risk, and thankfully they took a different approach, casting and writing him as a younger man living in a world not populated by the same school-friends as we’ve seen in previous films. It was fresh.

It also felt a little less CGI/action-scene heavy compared to most other Marvel efforts, which is no bad thing.

In fact, unlike most superhero movies, this felt like a story from start to finish, including a terrific twist towards the end that I didn’t see coming.

If I was to criticise it for anything, it would be that it presumes knowledge of the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, so f you’re coming in with a fresh pair of eyes, it might be a little confusing.

That though wasn’t a major issue for me, and so on the whole I enjoyed it.

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Movies – Doctor Strange Review (or ‘When There’s Always Biscuits In The Tin, Where’s The Fun In Biscuits’)

October 31, 2016

Who’d have thought a superhero movie from Marvel Studios could be ‘worthy’?

I certainly didn’t think it would be possible, but Doctor Strange has disproved that theory.

With a cast full of actOrs (with a capital O)  that the more poncy reviewer – you know, the sort who sneers at anything that doesn’t “examine the human condition” – loves, including Benedict Cumberbatch (with a drstrangeterrible American accent), Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton (because what’s more sophisticated than a woman who is willing to shave her head for her craft?) and Mads Mikkelsen, this is definitely a step above the oik level fayre that Marvel usually serve up.

And you can tell that the cast think it too, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have agreed to take part.

But here’s the thing; Dr Strange is one of the more obscure Marvel characters for a reason, and that reason is that he’s a bit boring.

And so is this movie.

The plot was unoriginal, the characters were unlikable and the villains were uninteresting.

There just wasn’t much to it.

The best I’ve heard anyone come up with is that it has good special effects, but as I’ve said before, special effects are no longer ‘special’. We now know that if enough money is given to computer animators, then anything is possible. And when anything is possible then nothing stands out.

You know the old saying don’t you? When there’s always biscuits in the tin, where’s the fun in biscuits? That applies here.

And here’s the case in point for you; on Saturday I watched the 1982 John Carpenter horror, The Thing. Made in an era before computer animation, the monster now looks pretty ropey. And yet to me, that monster looks more ‘special’ than the effects of today because it was created by talented prop designers and prosthetic experts rather than by some bloke who is able to click his mouse in the right way a few times before letting a computer take over.

So this all leads me to the belief that if all a movie has going for it is the effects, then in 2016 it’s not a very good movie.

And that describes Dr Strange perfectly, in spite of its obvious worthiness.


Movies – Captain America: Civil War Review

May 6, 2016

To quote a football manager looking to excuse a defeat on a Saturday afternoon, the difference between success and failure can come down to fine margins.

Those fine margins are crucial when determining whether Captain America: Civil War is a good movie or not.civil war

As a story it’s pretty average, it seems to rely upon fight scene after fight scene with no real consequences (no Superheroes were harmed in the making of this movie) and there’s no major enemy or threat to speak of.

But the inclusion of Spider-Man and Ant-Man make the difference.

The scenes with them add good humour and dynamism and make you feel as though they’ve finally got Spider-Man spot on.

You might think that’s a very small thing to make a difference, but like I say, it’s all down to those fine margins.

When they appeared it was great.

Without them – and especially in the 15 minutes before they appeared – I was almost falling asleep.

On balance then, I would say that it’s just good enough to recommend.

But only just.

And let’s have no more Iron Man or Captain America centric stuff please.

 

 


Movies – Deadpool Review (or ‘R-Rated To The Point Of Oversaturation’)

February 15, 2016

The success of Deadpool is an interesting one.

Here’s a film – one in which Marvel’s rebel ‘hero’ Deadpool explains his origin to the viewers while trying to get revenge on the man who scarred him for life – that has dared to be different and break free from the cookie cutter Marvel Superhero movie mould, and boy do they make that obvious.

From the off it’s swearing, nudity, meta dialogue and toilet humour, and based on its opening weekend box office success – it’s made a lot more money than almost every other Marvel franchise except the Avengers,

Oh look, he's pointing to his crotch; how naughty.

Oh look, he’s pointing to his crotch; how naughty.

and it’s done it at a fraction of the cost – it seems as though the public at large want to see it. Certainly the cinema was as busy as I’d seen it in years when I went yesterday.

That’s both good and bad.

Other than Ant-Man, Marvel’s cinematic output has been the same for years and I think people are getting a little tired of it. In Deadpool they offer up a non kid-friendly R-Rated feast that openly takes the piss out of everything that’s come before it, and it does it with some style.

So that’s good.

What’s not so good is that it might well spawn a series of imitation films.

For you see, to me, Deadpool was like coming off a sensible and strict low-calorie diet and eating nothing but chocolate, sweets and junk food for a week. It starts off great but eventually it all gets a bit much.

And though I found it funny in parts, there came a saturation point where it began to get a bit wearing.

If I was a 15-year-old boy, I’d probably consider it the best movie I’d ever seen, but I’m not; I’m a 33-year-old man and swearing for the sake of swearing doesn’t have quite the same appeal as it once did.

You might think I’m coming across as a stick-in-the-mud by saying that, but I think my point is valid.

I just felt that by having the freedom to do or say what they wanted, the writers ended up using the R-Rating as a crutch rather than a way to make the best story possible.

Really, this is just a basic vigilante storyline – think of a comedy Death Wish rather than a Superhero flick – that tries that little bit too hard to be smart, and ends up suffering as a result.

As a one-off it was good enough and enjoyable up to a point – and I must mention that I thought Ryan Reynolds was top-notch as the lead – but I don’t think we need to see it spawn a number of imitators.

Sadly, I think that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

 

 

 

 


Movies: Ant-Man Review (or “A Welcome Change In Scale”)

July 23, 2015

When I told my brother that Marvel were making an Ant-Man film a couple of years ago, he thought I was taking the piss.

Why Ant-Man? He’s not even a B-Level Superhero is he? And the name is hardly one that will draw in the crowds?

Well perhaps that’s true, as it was reported that it had the weakest opening weekend takings of any Marvel movie since 2008. That’s not to say it hasn’t done well of course, but just that it’s lagged behind other, more famous Marvel brands.

None of that is of any consequence to the viewer though I suppose; what matters is whether or not it’s any good.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: What’s It About?

When the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) realises that one of protegés has discovered the secret to his shrinking suit technology and is planning on selling it to the highest bidder, he enlists the helpantman of ex-con burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to take over the mantle of the miniscule Superhero to stop him.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: Who’s In It?

Apart from the aforementioned Douglas and Rudd, this also stars Evangeline Lilly (Lost) as Pym’s daughter Hope, Corey Still (House of Cards) as the villainous Darren Cross and Michael Peña as Lang’s friend and partner in crime Luis.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: How Highly Is It Rated?

Generally mixed. Imdb has it at 8.0 from just under 40,000 votes, but you can never tell how many of them are from fanboys. Most critics seem to have enjoyed it while a few felt that it fell flat.

Movies – Ant-Man Review: My Thoughts

Personally I liked it because it was a change of pace from most of Marvel Studios’ offerings.

Yes of course, despite the twist that this is about the original Ant-Man training the new one, Ant-Man is essentially yet another superhero origin movie, so it is by-and-large more of the same sort of plot about an ordinary person getting the grips with his new powers etc, but that’s not the change of pace I mean.

What I mean is that this movie operates at – and pardon the unintentional pun here – a far smaller scale than the likes of The Avengers or Spider-Man.

At its heart, Ant-Man is a comedy about a heist and so unlike just about every other effort from Marvel, this doesn’t descend into a third act all about destruction porn and cities being razed to the ground. Instead, there’s some actual plot involved in it and the special effects – like a toy Thomas the Tank Engine being turned life-sized – are used for humour.

Humour does play a big part in it, and so casting Paul Rudd – a natural comedic actor – in the lead role is important, but for me, it’s his friends like Peña who steal the show.

The only major criticism of Ant-Man is not really a criticism at all. I just feel that as a superhero, he has limited scope and a sequel would just be more of the same.  After all, how many nemeses can a guy the size of an ant have beyond other similar sized foes?

But that’s more a criticism of the state of Hollywood, because a movie shouldn’t have to prove that it can have multiple sequels for it to work.

As a standalone movie, this works well, and is worth seeing.

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Movies: The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review (or ‘Exactly What You’ve Come To Expect’) Spoiler Free

April 23, 2015

I was interested to look back on my review of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and see that I gave it a glowing review.

Clearly time has not been kind on my memory of it, as my lasting impression seemed to be that it turned into one long CGI Destruction Porn sequence, just like pretty much every Superhero movie has become.

But hey, it’s the initial impression that’s probably the most clear, and it’s for that sort of scenario that this blog was started in the first place.

Anyway, I was a little apprehensive going to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron today, as I thought that what I remembered the first movie being would be repeated again here.

So was I right?

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Spoiler Free Review – What’s It About?

Tony Stark’s idea to launch a new artificial intelligence – Ultron – to work towards world peace backfires when it reasons that peace can only be achieved if humanity is wiped out.avenge

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – Who’s In It?

Pretty much every protagonist from the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the exception of Pepper Potts and Thor’s girlfriend (I forget her name). Both are name checked and given ropey excuses for not being there.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – How Highly Is It Rated?

Generally speaking it gets 4 stars from the critics, and high scores from the legions of fanboys.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – Analysis

There are two ways of looking at this I suppose.

On the one hand, if you’ve never seen any of the MCU movies before, you’d end up feeling a little bit lost in terms of characterisation. In The Age of Ultron, the only characters to get even the slightest bit of development and are anything more than puddle deep are Ultron, Hawkeye and Black Widow. Beyond them there’s just this assumption that you know enough about the likes of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, SHIELD and The Incredible Hulk to be able to fill in the blanks for how and why they act the way they do.

Also, you could watch it and think that there’s only enough plot to fill half of the 142 minute running time, with the other half devoted to the aforementioned Destruction Porn of seeing another couple of cities being destroyed during over-long fight scenes.

But I’m not daft. This is a sequel, so knowledge of the subject matter is presumed and therefore those complaints are invalidated to an extent.

Having seen all the movies leading up to this, I knew enough about the main players to have a proper handle on their characters, and similarly, I also knew what to expect in terms of the plot to action sequence ratio.

It is what it is, and knowing that, I was mainly pleased with how this movie turned out.

I liked the extra attention given to Hawkeye and Black Widow, and I thought Ultron – though not exactly unique – was an enjoyable enough villain.

It was also good that the plot wasn’t as predictable as you might expect, with one character’s heavily foreshadowed death turning out to be a red herring.

And what surprised me most was that it was well paced, with the action spread throughout rather than it just being all storyline in the first half and all action in the second. This meant that despite running for 142 minutes, it didn’t drag.

The only real criticism I would have is that a lot of the humour misfired. It just wasn’t as funny as the people who wrote it probably thought it was.

The Avengers: Age of Ultron Review – Final Thoughts

The Avengers: Age of Ultron delivers what it promises, and you can’t ask for much more than that.

Therefore, if you enjoy movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then you’ll enjoy this and should give it a go.


TV: Daredevil Review (‘A Slow Burning Triumph’) – Spoiler Free

April 16, 2015

I tend to start my reviews of Superhero movies with “I like Superhero movies”, but in spite of that, I’ve never been especially fond of Superhero TV shows.

The likes of Arrow, The Flash and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. left me so underwhelmed that I never bothered to watch anything more than one or two episodes. They seem dodgily acted, not especially well written and often weighed down by existing lore that we should apparently know but might be unaware of.

So there was always a risk that Daredevil might not grab me, especially considering the bad reputation the movie had.

Thankfully that didn’t turn out to be the case

Daredevil Review – Spoiler Free Thoughts

As it turns out, I really enjoyed Daredevil.

The problems I outline above don’t apply to it much at all.

Yes, it helps to know that in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, New York was badly damaged by the events of the first Avengers movie, and that the nature of the rebuilding works and organised crime in Hell’s Daredevil-Netflix-LogoKitchen are spawned from that, but that’s all.

Even if you hadn’t seen that film, it spells it out for you anyway.

Beyond that, Daredevil exists in its own world, and it rooted in a more realistic setting than some of Marvel’s other offerings. None of the characters possess cosmic powers or are mutations. Daredevil is just a blind guy who has built his other senses up to make his lack of sight a non-issue. Meanwhile, the Kingpin is just a powerful underworld crime figure who isn’t intent on destroying the universe and doesn’t wear any daft costumes.

So that’s all great.

Moreover, because it’s written like that, then the entire nature of the show becomes more adult than you usually get from Marvel.

As part of that, the fight scenes come across as grittier and more realistic. Instead of the explosive, cartoon-like ‘violence’ of the movies, the director seems to have made a conscious choice to approach Daredevil more like The Raid. For those who like that sort of thing, the fight scenes and the action sequences in general are well produced and meticulously executed.

But for me, the more – indeed the most – enjoyable aspect of Daredevil is the characterisation.

You come to expect drama like this to have characters with very clearly defined positions. One is all good, the other is deep-rooted in evil. Look at the Captain America movies as an example of what I mean. He is the good old All-American boy fighting off against the evil German with the red skull for a head. You know who is right and who is wrong.

Daredevil is different. The team behind it have made a conscious decision to make the character of Wilson Fisk – The Kingpin – someone who you could have sympathy for. His means might be questionable, but his motives appear to have some good in them, and his background is one you might feel empathy towards. On the other hand, the part Daredevil plays in proceedings is often questioned, not only by his friends but by the man himself.

By setting the story up to be less black & white than the norm, it made it a lot more interesting for me.

And I should also note that part of the credit for that must also go to the actors involved, and especially Vincent D’Onofrio as Fisk. He makes every scene he’s in a delight.

Finally, I would say that by releasing all episodes on NetFlix in one go helps the viewer enjoy the show more. Or at least it helped me.

Without question, Daredevil is a slow burner which builds a story over almost 13 hours of television. But that allows it to come to a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion. If it was on for only one episode per week, you might think it moved too slowly, with some episodes not advancing the overall story-arc much, but by having episodes available in bulk, you can watch it over the course of a week and get a greater appreciation for what each one is trying to achieve.

I wouldn’t suggest trying to watch it all in one day, but I absolutely would suggest watching it.

Because it’s well worth your time.

It’s a slow burning triumph.

 

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