Thursday, 6 July 2017

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Big Spider-Man fan over here, but you guys probably already knew that. I’ve been quiet on my thoughts for the latest Spider-Man reboot, trying to keep my expectations at a minimum and not release a mega Spidey post for a film that could have disappointed. I’ve been cautiously optimistic, I haven’t liked all the decisions made, it was starting to look like Iron Man 4, but Marvel studios have rarely let me down so it was in good hands. Or was it…

I’m kidding, I believe I can safely say that this is a good Spider-Man film, not the best ever (Spider-Man 2 will probably never be beaten) but a solid entry into the character’s history. Read on to find out why.

Back in the capable hands of Marvel Studios, Spider-Man: Homecoming catches up with Peter Parker post-Civil War, trying his best to impress ‘Mr Stark’ for a place on The Avengers, dealing with the dilemmas of High School life whist attempting to stop an underground arms dealership that’s being run by the deadly Vulture. Tom Holland is back as Spider-Man and now being supported by Michael Keaton as The Vulture, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds, Laura Harrier as Liz and Zendaya as Michelle. Jon Watts is now in the directing chair, he proved himself as a capable director with the small indie film Cop Car and has transitioned well into blockbusters because he got a Spider-Man reboot right, not an easy thing to do!

What this film got right that the previous reboot did not is that it is completely different to what has come before. I was worried about a Spider-Man who was younger than me but it works, mainly because the cast is so young as well, so they look the part, but also because this feels like a high school drama mixed with a superhero film. It’s jarring but it works because it highlights the struggle Peter Parker has to go through constantly. It also helps that the soap opera ‘John Hughes’ High School drama is handled very well. We also get a different Spider-Man to what we’ve seen before, not only is he young but he’s also hasn’t got a handle on his superpowers, constantly making mistakes and learning the ropes throughout the entire film. He’s definitely a very ‘friendly neighbourhood’ Spider-Man because apart from one set piece in Washington, he pretty much sticks to Queens, so don’t expect Spidey swinging around skyscrapers just yet. It leaves you excited to see them develop his character in future films.

With every hero must come a villain and The Vulture I’m happy to report is great. Michael Keaton kills it as Adrian Toomes and has a great physical presence in the film, in and out of the costume. The design of Vulture looks awesome on film and with his wingspan being pretty huge he’s a scary and intimidating threat when he comes across the wall crawler. He’s not just another punch bag, he has depth, motivation and a little bit of sympathy as a working man adapting to the world around him to make ends meet. Easily one of Marvel’s better villains and on a smaller more grounded scale, something I hope they keep for new villains in the next instalment.

Tony Stark was another worry of mine, I didn’t like him being so integral to Spider-Man, making his suit or having too much of a leading role in his film. Thankfully though he doesn’t outstay his welcome, this is still very much Peter’s film and he’s still learning about ‘great responsibility’ without Stark. The gadget filled suit looks great but Stark’s involvement isn’t to my taste still, although there are some great sequences throughout the film with him testing the suits abilities that come close to redeeming that. Instead of world building, the film is more interested in placing Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so I have to throw away some of my ‘comic book accuracy nerd annoyance’ and accept that this version is going to be shaped by a world with super powered beings already inhabiting it and being very present in his home town. Though any time Spidey needs saving from Iron Man will always hit a sore spot with me!

Back to the tone of this film, it’s very funny! This is something we’ve come to expect from Marvel films now but it feels more at home with Spider-Man. He’s an awkward kid and it comes across and there are a lot of jokes at his expense. Not all of them land, there’s a lot of emphasis on Aunt May being hot which came across as little bit creepy rather than funny. There’s a good ratio of action to down time, and when the action scenes roll out they are all well done, but there are occasions when Spider-Man looks more like a cartoon character than something ‘real’ in the scene. The light-hearted nature of the film is helped along by a good score from Michael Giacchino, it’s not iconic but it’s different, more playful than other entries in the MCU and differentiates itself from other heroes, something I hope future MCU films continue.  

There are some decisions made in the film that still make me cringe a bit but revealing them could be considered spoilers so I’ll stay clear for now. Some of the smaller characters don’t get a lot of development and Zendaya’s Michelle is very under used to the point where I’m not sure why she’s such a big part of the marketing. Depending on your age and fondness of high school dramas, some of the scenes may not be as easily relatable, but for me it was nice to see a younger perspective in the MCU. Is Tom Holland my Spider-Man? No (or at least not yet), his character may have been easier to relate to because of my age but I wasn’t as emotionally invested as I have been before and this feeling was made apparent near the end of the film, as a ‘classic’ spidey moment plays out and I wasn’t quite sure if the film had earnt it yet.

The more I talk/write about this film though, the more I like it. It’s not my favourite Spider-Man film but it’s a solid entry and a refreshing take on the character that differentiates itself from the films before. We haven’t seen a fully developed Spider-Man in the MCU but he is a teenager and has a lot more developing to do, so it’s actually quite exciting to see where they go with the character next. Who knows, this could be our best Spider-Man yet, only time will tell. I’m rating Spider-Man: Homecoming a 4/5.

What did you think of the latest (and hopefully last reboot of the character for some time!) Spider-Man film? Hit the mark or too much Stark? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 26 June 2017

Is Spider-Man 3 Actually Good?

I’ve been back and forth Spider-Man 3 since it came out. As a child, I loved it and it was one of the first films I eagerly anticipated and saw on the day of its release. Since then, I’ve taken in its criticisms and come to disregard it as one of the first missteps in Spider-Man’s cinematic journey, but what if I was wrong?



It’s been a few years since I’ve seen it and upon revisiting it I’ve come to believe that maybe we’ve giving this one a bit of a hard time. Now that’s not to say that there isn’t anything bad, there’s some definite strange choices made throughout and unfortunately, they seem to have detracted from the good, and do you know what, there is a lot of good stuff in this film. I would argue that at least the first hour of this film is pretty amazing, the setup of the characters, the darker side of Peter Parker before the symbiote even bonds with him, when his pride and selfishness takes over and the incredible visuals that show and not tell the story. Any change from source material is made to inform the main character who in turn informs the story, like Gwen Stacy being smart, successful and having a caring Father is everything MJ wants, making her the perfect unknowing antagonist, and it surprisingly works really well.



Talking of MJ, I always used to think her character was really annoying in this film when I was younger. However, having now grown up a bit, I think that most of her actions are justified, she’s a woman who wants more from life than to be Spider-Man’s girlfriend, she needs something independent to that, something that Peter isn’t helping her with. And although this aspect is not concluded, it does add some depth to her character.



Now obviously, the emo styling and dance scenes are a weird choice but an argument could be made that they are Parker’s own dorky version of what he thinks is cool, either way it’s still odd. Ultimately, it’s Venom that doesn’t work, he’s shoehorned in and should either be given more time or just set aside for Sandman who, along with Harry Osborn, bring some emotion to the core of the story. And I’ve got to say, Pete and Harry fighting alongside each other at the end brings a great smile to my face as that storyline is resolved.



Overall though, I think it’s time for people to re-visit this one, it’s a smart, pulpy, energetic and a high stakes conclusion to a brilliant trilogy that I wish never concluded. There’s no denying it’s the weakest of the trilogy but each film has been about Peter Parker, building on his character and making it interesting to watch and develop even past his origin story and this one is no different. This is something hopefully that’s Marvel Studios will bring along to their own solo outings for the superhero. Man, I wish we were on Raimi’s Spider-Man 6.

I'm  sure not everybody will feel this way, so let me know what you think of Spider-Man 3 in the comments below.

Can we all agree though that we don’t want a Venom solo movie? 

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Quick Reviews #18: 2017 So Far

We’re halfway through the year already! So in this quick reviews post I wanted to talk about some of the films released in 2017 that I haven’t given a full review to. This in no way means they’re worse than the ones I did a full review of (especially Get Out, which as of now is still my favourite film of 2017), it just means that I probably didn’t have the time to write one. So read on and find out my thoughts on these five films from 2017.

Get Out

This film is absolutely brilliant. The way the film plays out is so smart, lots of intriguing elements get paid off by the end that it will have you grinning in your seat. All the technical elements of this film, the camerawork, the score, the performances are so well executed. I was also surprised by how funny it was, and yes I know the director has a background in comedy (I love The Key & Peele Show!) but I thought he was going for a straight-out horror/thriller with this film. It never set itself on one genre but this never dragged it down, it worked through all the emotions, creating tension in one scene and having you laughing in the next and then back to getting me well and truly freaked out and I loved it for doing so, this could have so easily not worked but thankfully it did, it really, really did! If anybody has watched Inside No. 9 on BBC 2 then it’s kind of like a feature version of one of those episodes.
5/5

Casting JonBenet

I usually hate re-enactments of horrific crimes; they tarnish the realism of a situation and make it something trivial. This documentary however, uses the re-enactment in the most unique and cleverest of ways, making it a starting point for a discussion with people who are very loosely tied to the story, allowing them to delve deep into the minds of the real people involved and what might have been going through their heads. It’s therapeutic in a way and makes this documentary more than its subject matter. I knew little of this case beforehand, and although it was frustrating at times to not be given all the information, it was a creative and thought provoking way to look at a homicide like no film I’ve seen before do. It’s on Netflix, you should definitely go watch it!
4.5/5

Beauty and the Beast

Do you know what? I enjoyed the hell out of this! Yeah, I’m surprised as well, I went in with little to no expectations but came out with a massive goofy grin on my face. I knew it had songs but I was not expecting a full blown musical! It really worked, the music just heightened everything and took what could have been a bore of a film to the next level. The design was great, the CGI wasn’t always amazing but it still fitted nicely into the aesthetic of the film. It was very theatrical, most of the performances are great, Emma Watson does well with what she is given but is not the strongest actor in the film. Probably the best live-action Disney remake yet, it just felt more classic and nostalgic. Lots of laughs, lots of music and lots of fun, I really liked this one.
4/5

Split

For the most part I really enjoyed this film, its premise was interesting and the focus of the film was amazingly performed by James McAvoy. However, I did find some of the choppy ambiguity at the beginning to be off putting, and when the exposition did come it was handled very clumsily. This film was tense but I never got scared, it’s a good thriller but I wanted to be on edge, the film for me did not do that. Also, this is only the second ever M. Night Shyamalan movie I’ve seen (mainly due to his reputation and because I’ve heard all the spoilers from his first film!), so when the “twist” came at the end it didn’t do anything for me and felt like a strange ending for what was a pretty solid film. I will definitely check out more of his early work.
3.5/5

Berlin Syndrome

A really well shot, quiet and subdued thriller. I mainly wanted to watch this because of my love for Berlin and I was not disappointed as the city looks beautiful in this film. The whole film has this great mood and feel to it that is kept throughout and constantly keeps you on edge. Spending so much time with two characters, I did find myself wanting to get inside their heads more than we did but overall I enjoyed this one, a great, smart and tense psychological film. I will definitely be checking out more of Cate Shortland’s work!
4/5

Power Rangers

The Breakfast Club meets superheroes. I have never seen the original TV series and films and whatever else the source material may be. My only knowledge of this franchise is the toy store where I work, and the toys are a pretty big deal there. It never looked great but… This film may be my new guilty pleasure. It’s overly cliché, has a terrible taste in music, is borderline Transformers cringey at times and takes way too long to get to the action. However, it won me over with its heart, it’s cheesiness and its message of friendship. It’s very light hearted, doesn’t take its self too seriously, and it filled me with a lot of joy. Billy, the autistic Power Ranger was a breath of fresh air and Elizabeth Banks stole the show with her brilliantly over-acted Rita Repulsa. Haters gonna hate, I really liked this one. 
3.5/5


What did you think of the films I've reviewed above? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 5 June 2017

Wonder Woman

It’s here, it’s finally here, Wonder Woman’s first live action feature debut. You may be worried that the latest entry into the DC Extended Universe would follow the trend of their less than great previous films, but worry no more, Wonder Woman is the superhero film the studio needs right now, but more importantly it’s film the world needs right now! Read on and find out why.

This film tells us the origins of Wonder Woman, a long time before the events of Batman V Superman, during WW1, when a pilot crashes on the mysterious island, Themiscyra, he tells the young warrior who saves him, Diana, of the war to end all wars and without hesitating she joins him to help bring an end to the fighting.

In the wide range of superhero films on offer today, Wonder Woman is kind of generic, it’s a good mix of Thor and Captain America but is able to stand on its own two feet. Its main strength lies in the films message, this is what makes it stand above the rest, delivering a solid superhero origin story that commentates and criticises our world, views and values. When Diana first ventures from her island, it’s her first interaction with ‘man’s’ world. She’s naïve and obviously there is comedy to go with that but there is also a fresh look on the way we do things, which in her eyes isn’t all that good and throughout the film she begins to learn that men aren’t all bad but they’re also not all good. Diana’s arc throughout this period of realisation is one that insights hope and joy within the viewer and that’s what brings this film home, elevating the formulaic superhero film into something more special.  

Playing the icon is Gal Gadot and boy does she bring her A game. She truly carries this film and breathes life into Diana, making the character her own and diminishing any doubts audiences may have had about her taking on the role. She owns Wonder Woman. Everybody in this film does a great job, even with the little amount that some characters get. Up there with Gadot though is Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, the two have amazing chemistry and together they steal the film, creating real emotional connections between the two characters in the space of a couple of hours, you care about these characters and what happens to them.

My favourite element of this film is the action. The action is so badass, it’s so cool, it looks beautiful with great cinematography and sounds awesome with an excellent score. The theme we heard first in BvS is truly earned in this film and when it arrives, it really does deliver. Wonder Woman in full costume, in all her glory, taking out bad guys is a moment to be experienced on the big screen, it gave me goosebumps and I have read barely any Wonder Woman comics.

No matter how much I’ve raved about this film, it’s not perfect. It’s a tad too long for a start and the CGI does not always hold up, which is shame considering previous DC films have been pretty good with this element to date. And as I’ve stated before, it’s a bit generic, it doesn’t take many risks or feel much different from previous superhero films, but also as I’ve mentioned, because it works the tropes so well and has a message worth spreading, it is still able to stand above many that have come before it. Talking of other DC films, if you liked the grim tone and serious nature of this films predecessors then you may not like where they take this one, this one has jokes, is uplifting and is a film where the hero is heroic.  

Patty Jenkins, the director, should be applauded for bringing Wonder Woman to the big screen in such glorious fashion, a job I’m sure brought a lot of pressure on getting it right. Finally, we have a female led superhero film that is great and will hopefully usher in a new era of equality within the genre. This truly is a film and a hero the world needs right now, not flawless but still great, a solid 4/5. Go see Wonder Woman now!

I'm actually a little excited for Justice League now, even if it is just to see Wonder Woman again!

What did you think of Wonder Woman? Have the DCEU taken a step forward or backwards, let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!


Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Alien: Covenant

I’m a Prometheus sympathiser. I loved it when it came out and after watching it recently, I still do. I do see and realise the flaws throughout but can get past them and enjoy the ride. With Alien: Covenant, you may think that Ridley Scott would have learnt from his mistakes, however that’s not the case. Covenant is a flawed film that many will not be able to see pass. I however could and I still enjoyed what felt like a great sci-fi thriller that’s truly trying to grasp onto more than what the films that have gone before and after it have. Read on to find out why.

Covenant follows the crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, as they discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination. This film twists and turns pretty much from the get go so it’s difficult to go into more detail than this without spoiling things. Michael Fassbender returns yet again to play another synthetic android, and man is he as incredible as ever! Fassbender is the MVP of this franchise, I could watch him act all day long and never get bored. Joining him is a new cast, the stand outs being; Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride and Billy Crudup. The rest of the cast are just as good but there is quite a lot of them and these three are the main drivers of the story.

I liked this film a lot but I’m not oblivious to its flaws. Like I’ve said before, I can see past many of them but I’ll highlight them here first as they do detract from the film but not to my overall enjoyment of it. You do not really care for any of these characters, maybe Katherine Waterston’s as you follow her for most of the film but I was never too worried if any of them made it to the end. Part of this is probably down to the decisions the characters make, weak ones, stupid ones and some which just have no logic or reasoning behind them. It’s obvious how stupid some of these decisions are and I’m surprised they weren’t picked out before the film was made. Maybe it’s something to do with the philosophy of the film, are they highlighting the biggest flaw in humans is the fact that we are? This feels like I’m clutching at straws but who knows. If you can look past this, and I’m sure there will be many that can’t, then there is a great sci-fi film lurking and it comes into its stride once the story kicks in.

The film only gets better as it goes on, revealing its sinister threat and delving deeper into the philosophy that Prometheus started musing about. Maybe some came for the Xenomorph, and there is a lot of that, but I personally loved the philosophical element of this film. It makes its feel like it’s grasping for more than just being another killer alien film and trying to make us think like many other great sci-fi films. At times, it feels like it’s two films battling each other, one being an Alien prequel and the other being a Prometheus sequel. In a way these franchises may have been better off separate from each other but I don’t care, in my opinion both Prometheus and Covenant, even with their flaws, are really solid films and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Despite the flaws I’ve picked out, I enjoyed the hell out of this film. It’s tense, it’s scary, it’s gloriously gory and it’s thought provoking. It’s a great addition to the Alien franchise and I would definitely watch it again even if it’s just for some very memorable Michael Fassbender scenes… Not perfect but a great sci-fi film, I’m rating Alien: Covenant a 4/5. I’m hoping that the possible sequels to this film can be more thought out with deeper layered characters but also keep the philosophical element that has me hooked.

What did you think of the latest instalment of the Alien franchise, classic sci-fi or another dud? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!


Monday, 1 May 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

I was travelling in California with my family when the first Guardians of the Galaxy came out. Being the Marvel fanboy that I was and still am, I begged them to go watch it opening day. After many grumbles about how I was taking time out of the holiday to see a film about a talking tree and raccoon, they gave in and we saw the film at the Cinemark Monterey 13 cinema. They were not ready for how US audiences enjoy films because unlike us British, they are loud about it. I’ve never had a movie-going experience quite like it, there was clapping and cheering throughout, it was well deserved and I absolutely loved it! My parents, well they left the cinema exclaiming how it was one of the best films they had ever seen and how much they loved Rocket and Groot!

Now here we are; Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. My parents loved it, so there’s their review. Me, well I’m the film guy, I like to go a little more in depth with my opinions and although this film was a fun watch, it was a little bit messier than its predecessor. Read on to find out my SPOILER FREE verdict.

In their second outing the Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. All the main players are back as well as few new faces in the form of Kurt Russell as Ego, Pom Klementieff as Mantis and Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha.

If you think that description of the story is vague, that’s because there’s not much more to it than that and that’s where the film trips over for me. In what feels like a TV episode structure, the film’s plot is pushed along by one or two characters of its ensemble cast, whilst the others are just reacting to what’s going on, trying to make sense of it. Yes, most of them have their small arcs which do work nicely into the film, but if you were hoping characters like Groot and Drax were going to be more than comedic relief then you will be disappointed.

Thankfully where the story doesn’t add up, the character interactions do. They’ve set up the family dynamic really well for the group, they’re brilliant to watch together and bring a lot of laughs. You know how you could watch the The Avengers just chilling out drinking beer together for two hours, well you could definitely do the same with the Guardians, the chemistry between the group is amazing. This film is full on comedy, it’s the most jokey of all the Marvel films so far and thankfully most of them land. It’s a load of fun to watch with a large audience and because you care for the characters a lot, when the going gets tough, you do genuinely feel for them. And with film being about father – son relationships, it does have some emotional punches.

I could honestly watch this team together all day, even when the story doesn’t hook me, the characters are so good and well defined that in the moment it didn’t matter. Drax stole the show in the first film and he is just as funny here, but for me Rocket was the MVP of Vol. 2. The CGI was flawless and you get to see Rocket be a full on badass when he takes out a whole bunch of guys single handily with just his fists and few gadgets. The music is great yet again and I love how it still plays a big part in the film, even if the playlist isn’t as good as the first (this is becoming repetitive, I know) but that is of course subjective.

You guys get the gist, it’s still good, a lot of fun but not as well balanced or (some would say) as perfect as the first. Another solid entry into the MCU, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is great time at the cinema, I’m rating the film a 4/5.

What did you think of Marvel’s latest cosmic adventure? Loved it, hated it? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Logan

I’ve finally seen Logan, the third film in the least coherent trilogy of all time, only this time it’s good, like really good. You’ve probably heard the hype by now and I’m here to tell you that yes, it is pretty much all true, we finally get to see what a man with blades coming out of his knuckles can do and it is gloriously brutal. Read on to find out my SPOILER FREE thoughts.

Logan is set in a what seems like a not too distant dystopian future, with the mutant now struggling to make ends meet, driving a Limo and caring for an old and unstable Professor X. That’s until a new mutant comes along, with a power set not to dissimilar to his own, who he reluctantly decides to try help escort to the Canadian border, far away from an evil company that is tracking her down.

This film is unlike any superhero film you’ve seen before and it is very refreshing to see. I was excited not to know where this film was going from scene to scene, ever wondering where the story may end, unlike previous Wolverine and superhero films where you know he’s going to have to fight the big bad at the end and save the day. You can tell that this film had a lot of thought put into the story and character before adding all the flashy elements, for the most part it plays like a Western where it just so happens the characters inhabit superpowers. It’s shot very nicely, the production design is beautiful and more importantly real and the characters feel very flawed and human. Time has taken its toll on these larger than life characters and grounded them in a way that makes them feel more relatable. The story still falls into some obvious movie tropes but for the most part, this film is about living and what it means to be human and these are the bits of the film that really stand out, not just the brutal action scenes, but yes those are pretty cool as well.

Yes, this Wolverine film is R rated, or if you live in the UK like myself, it’s got a 15 certificate. You won’t be bringing your kids to this one. As I stated at the start, Wolverine using his claws is gloriously brutal, nothing gets covered up, you get to see what would happen if somebody did have blades shooting out of their knuckles and then punching people in the head and although I thought this may grow old, it never did, the fight scenes are some of the best in the whole X-Men/Wolverine franchise and they are little more than Wolverine or Laura (the young mutant) killing hordes of mercenaries. It’s not just the violence that is upped in this film but the language and darker story themes as well. The language takes a little getting used to at first because we’ve only really heard Logan curse a few times in the franchise, now he’s swearing a lot and it works for his character and the place he is in. The one character I didn’t think it worked for was Professor X, thankfully he doesn’t swear as much as the film goes on but near the start he does quite a bit and it did feel a bit unnecessary, like James Mangold, the director, was trying to make full use of the adult rating for the sake of having it.  Where the adult content works best however is in favour of the themes of the story, nothing needs to be sugar-coated here, this is about a character who is at the end of his tether and has had enough of the world, things get dark for him physically and mentally and it was nice to see a film handle this maturely.

This is Hugh Jackman’s final film as Wolverine and although he will probably be recast in the next five years, it was nice to have this film be a great send off to the actor and the character. It sucks that in his seventeen years as Wolverine, his final film is the one he is truly allowed to sink his claws into, pun intended. This is without a doubt one of the best performances of Hugh Jackman’s career and easily his best performance as Wolverine. He has put his stamp on this character, so much so that when people talk about Wolverine, I rarely see the comic book version anymore (no matter how much I want to see that costume in full glory on the big screen one day), I see Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. It was also nice that in this film we could be introduced to another great performance from a 12-year-old actress, Dafne Keen, who is destined to be a star.

Although this film is great I did have some problems with it, the biggest being the emotional moments didn’t always hit with me. Maybe that’s just me, maybe I need to watch it again but I felt that this was the fault of the X-Men franchise/universe being non-coherent as a whole, I never felt sad or worried that a character might get hurt or worse, the likelihood is that we’ll probably see some version of them again in the future. There are some great moments but I just don’t think that I was as emotionally invested as the film wanted me to be at the time.

I now want to take a moment to talk about the future of superhero films as R rated cinema in the future. It worked for this story and for this character at this point in his life, that does not mean that we need to do it for everyone. Spider-Man does not need to be R rated and neither does Batman or a lot of big superhero characters, that is unless the story calls for it. The worry is that some future superhero films will have adult content for the sake of having characters swear and show brutal violence, even Logan doesn’t always get away with this throughout the duration of the film. What this film shows is that filmmakers and studios need to think about the story and character first and leave the spectacle to last, and then only if the story calls for it. Marvel seem to be getting the hang of this and for the most part, have been pretty good at delivering good quality stories, but other areas of the superhero genre need to get to grips with the fact that not every superhero film needs to be the same or audiences are just going to get bored of them.

Logan is a refreshing addition to the superhero genre that treats the story and character with care, it sends Hugh Jackman out on a high in a way that we’ve never seen before in the genre. Some of the more emotional moments lacked levity for me but for the most part, it’s a great story and excellent film. I’m giving Logan a rating of 4/5.

What did you think of the film, a masterpiece or just another comic book movie? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!

SNIKT!  

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Quick Reviews #17: 5(2) Films by Women

Happy International Women’s Day everybody! I thought it would be topical to post a Quick Reviews on some films directed by women. This year I have taken on the ‘52 Films by Women’ challenge that will see me watch one film directed by a woman for every week of the year. I am currently up to date and have seen ten films directed by women so far this year with even more lined up and ready to go. This challenge is a great one to try out as women have mainly been marginalised by the film industry so much so that many of us could barely list ten female directors if asked. And although things are very slowly changing it is nowhere near as equal as it should be yet. The idea of this challenge is to broaden your film knowledge and understanding of women in film as well as finding some hidden gems that you may not have sought out before. I’ve had a lot of fun doing this challenge and have already seen some brilliant and interesting films and today I’m sharing with you five of my favourites from the challenge so far, I’m not going to rate them this time, I’m just going to present them to you and let you know now that you should check out every single one these films, not because they're directed by women but because they are just great stories.

Mustang

This film is a well-made piece of Turkish cinema about five orphan girls who whilst discovering themselves in the world are also being confined with arranged marriages by their conservative guardians. I loved the way this film followed the joyfulness of sisterhood and youth before slowly unravelling its dark and terrifying reality. The film is a completely different beast at the end from what it is at the beginning.

Pariah

This film is about a teenager struggling with her conflicting identities and sexual expression, which begins to risk her family and friendships. It’s kind of like the second act of Moonlight in a 90-minute film. It's an excellent slice of life story that will take you on quite an emotional journey. It’s not a perfect film but it’s a story that needs to be told about a demographic that is still underrepresented in cinema.

Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl

This a harrowing film about a character that truly loses herself in an effort to get back to her family and to end the reality that she has been living in; the cultural revolution of China in the 1970’s. Like Mustang this film experiences quite a tonal shift from the first half of the film into the second which was inspiring as a filmmaker but heart-breaking as a viewer.

American Honey

American Honey follows Star as she joins a magazine sales crew and gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard partying, law bending and young love. This is one of the most beautiful ugly films I have ever seen. I wish it amounted to more but at the same time I loved just spending time in this world. The acting is perfection; every cast member feels so real and natural that at times if felt like a documentary. This is one of those films that stays with you for days after watching it.

Cameraperson

This is a documentary film that draws on the footage that filmmaker Kirsten Johnson has shot over her career and re-frames it in ways that illuminate moments that have personally affected her, and it is one of the most interesting documentaries I have ever seen. It contains a lot of small visual bites of footage that felt very raw and human. It’s a film that reminds us that wherever you are, whoever you are, we are all human. We kind of need this film right now.

If you want to see the rest of the films I’ve seen as part of the challenge or want to follow along as I add more then you can do so here: https://letterboxd.com/superalexman/list/52filmsbywomen-2017/

If this is something you have enjoyed and maybe later in the year want me to repeat again then please let me know in the comments below.


Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Quick Reviews #16: Oscars 2017 Edition

Another year, another Academy Awards. This year, apart from the snub of Silence, is not as controversial as many before it, in fact I would go to say that this is one of the strongest years of the Oscars yet, I would happily give the Best Picture award to most of the nominees. Why can’t we have these kinds of films spread out across the year, I spent most of 2016 thinking it was a bit rubbish for films, how wrong was I! Now I’ve already spoken about a few of the nominees in previous posts, so I’m allowing this edition of Quick Reviews to be focused on the one’s I haven’t spoken about yet. So read on and find out what I thought about some of this year’s Oscar nominees.

La La Land
The film industry’s darling and the favourite for nearly everything at this year’s Oscars, and do you know what, it’s actually quite good. It’s mix of exciting drama and musical numbers really helps elevate it as something quite special with the performances of its stars, especially Emma Stone, being the cherry on top. Personally not my favourite film on the list of nominees but a great film none the less and one that I would not be upset about if it does end up winning best picture.
4.5/5

Moonlight
Incredibly well shot and beautifully acted, Moonlight brings us a story not like one we’ve seen before, but one we can all relate to in one way or another. It’s great to see these kind of stories on the big screen, characters that haven’t been represented enough before. It’s easy to see that director Barry Jenkins has poured his heart out into this script but has weaved it together into a poetic and moving piece of cinema. For me it lacked that final bit of something to make this stand out among the rest, it slowed down too much for me near the end and it left me wanting something more to go home with. Maybe that was the point…
4/5

Manchester by The Sea
This film will make you laugh and it will make you cry, almost in equal amounts, it’s an emotional roller-coaster of a ride. It’s a story so well told and structured in a way that keeps you engaged at all times, a true character piece and one that reveals layers upon layers of depth all the way until the end. If this one doesn’t win Best Original Screenplay I will be very surprised. A really beautiful and human film.
5/5

Loving
This is an incredible true story but the film’s slow pace failed to get me more invested in the characters rather than just on a surface level. I loved some of the story choices made, such as choosing to focus on the relationship rather that what it meant on a bigger scale for social injustice, though this is still of course embedded throughout. It had great potential but it unfortunately failed to grip me like.
3/5

Jackie
This film was absolutely stunning and truly uses the full scope of the medium to tell a small and incredibly important snapshot from the life of Jackie Kennedy. The film is almost dreamlike, it cuts around from at least three different timelines, held together by a beautiful and haunting score that creates a sense of dysphoria, much like the mind state of Jackie herself, a woman who is simply trying to process an horrific experience which nobody around her wants to talk about. She’s lonely, isolated, lost in the world and every aspect of the film reflects this.
5/5

Arrival
One of the most gripping Sci-Fi’s I have seen in a long time. This film is one of the most beautiful looking, amazing sounding and really thought provoking films to have come around recently. I’m not even sure I blinked when I saw it, I just wanted to soak it all in and understand it. It’s not a cold film either, it hits you emotionally and this is very much helped by the performances from its great cast. I’m sure it won’t be for everyone but I personally couldn’t find anything wrong with it.
5/5

Hacksaw Ridge
The first half of this film does not deserve an Oscar as much as the second maybe does. It’s quite corny and not very subtle in its approach when it comes to the drama. The war scenes however, are as viscerally amazing as they are brutal, they are very well done and truly pack a punch. It’s a solid war film that’s heart-warming but also a bit heavy handed at times. At least it earned Andrew Garfield the nomination that he definitely deserved for Silence instead… (he’s still very good in this though!)
3.5/5

Moana
I loved how colourful this film was, some of the visuals were absolutely gorgeous. The music is really powerful and I loved how it was used thematically and not just for the big set pieces (though ‘How Far I’ll Go’ is on repeat right now…). A great story for both adults and children, a brilliant and well-rounded family film. Just as good as Disney Animation’s previous film Zootopia, are they becoming the new Pixar?
4.5/5

Hell or High Water
This film is one that’s smart with its simple approach. It’s deeply layered in a way that never makes you root for one side of the characters over the others, the cops or the robbers. It’s a solid thriller with some great performances from all involved, worth a watch but probably not going to rake in the awards like some of the other films in this post.
4/5

Well there you go, I'm actually a little excited to see how this Oscars goes down, is it La La Land's show or is something going to come out a steal its thunder? Do you care? Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for reading! 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Podcast: Cinebois2Cinemen

So this week I wanted to share with you a podcast that I have been listening to called Cinebois2Cinemen. It's a new project from three of my friends that I studied with at University, Daniel Smith, Alfie Martin and Ben Kersey. Now I'm not just promoting this because they're my friends but also because the content they are creating is really good! I'm big fan of podcasts in general and the quality of their production and the depth of their discussion is just as good as the best. I'm hooked already, it's like being back in Falmouth, having serious discussions about film and the industry but also having a good laugh as well. If I haven't hooked you then they have also written a little something themselves to entice you in:

'Cinebois2Cinemen' is a weekly film podcast that aims to provide in-depth discussion and analysis on the weeks releases with a veneer of casual silliness and self deprecatory humour that permeates 99% of all our conversations away from the microphone. Our aspirations for the podcast are simple; As we approach our one month anniversary it seems fitting to expand our listening base away from friends and family who listen just to be polite. In the future we've planned (perhaps rather over zealously) a few changes to the formula, such as dragging guests on from all walks of life and even livecasts should you wish to put the horribly high voices to the constantly greasy faces. All jokes aside, we genuinely love talking about films, and would love people who share that love to have a listen, get in touch and provide feedback (good and bad). This week, we chat about Moonlight, and follow that on with a discussion about masculine portrayals in film. We've got a few others in the back catalogue where we discuss other films and what we felt were subjects relevant should you be feeling fruity. Thanks to Alex for sharing the podcast. Love, Cinebois2Cinemen

I urge you guys to check this out, what I've heard so far is great and it can only get better. If you love film then this is definitely one for you. You can check out the latest podcast on Moonlight below:



I'm going to have to wait on that one because I have yet to have seen Moonlight as my local cinema will not be screening the Oscar nominated and highly critically praised film (not bitter...). If you're like me or want to start the podcast from it's very beginning then you can check out the first episode on La La Land here:



Check out their Facebook page here.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Lego Batman Movie


The Lego Movie was a film that I absolutely loved when it first came out and it has kept growing on me ever since, so much so that I would rate it as one of my favourite animated films. And who would have thought it, Lego!? So now they’ve spun off one of the characters, Batman, in his own solo film. Which means that nerds like me can have two slices of cake with this one!

There are three great things about The Lego Batman Movie; one is that it’s a great placeholder whilst we wait for the sequel to The Lego Movie. It keeps in tone with its predecessor, delivering a nice story with strong family themes and is filled to the brim with stupid yet very funny gags. And this one barely takes a moment to breathe with the jokes, they just keep on coming, it’s like Airplane! where there are jokes going on everywhere, this film is going to be rewarding when it comes out on DVD and you’ll be able to pause it and check out all the visual gags that have passed you by.

Two is that it’s a great critique and ribbing of the history and mythology of the character. You can tell there’s a lot of love for the character but at the same time they do not hold their punches when it comes to making fun of him. It’s pretty much a spoof movie of Batman in popular culture, making fun of his dark and brooding ways, his villains (including Superman) and his weird phase in the 60’s… Some of the jokes are made for avid comic book fans and general audiences will find that some of those might go straight over their heads. Chris McKay, the director and the everybody else involved clearly know the range of their audience very well.

Three is that it’s a good Batman story! Seriously, when this film starts it gathers some of Batman’s most notorious villains (and some of his not so well known) and has them take over Gotham City, with Batman the only one able to stop them. I can only imagine a live action Batman movie starting in that way, so for now I’m happy that I’ve been able to see the Lego version of that. Now I’m not saying that this is among some of the best Batman story’s out there, it’s probably one of the more family friendly ones but we’re not talking about the new The Dark Knight here. The voice cast is absolutely great as well, with the stand out for me being Michael Cera as Robin.

With this film, the Lego is more of an animation style rather than something that is part of the story, for the most part anyway. This isn’t a bad thing but because it’s shot like a film, it meant that at times it suffered from the Transformers effect, where the action on screen is very hard to follow because it’s literally blocks smashing against blocks. There are some very nice camerawork and angles involved but it sometimes suffered with pretty crazy action scenes.

It works as a Lego movie, it works as a Batman movie and it works as a spoof movie. That’s pretty good going, you’re going to have a fun time at the cinema if those three things flick your switch. There’s heart to it but personally I do wish they could have slowed down a bit more often to let it sink in because it never hits you the way The Lego Movie did. It’s a fun spin off but I do hope that future Lego films are able to capture the smartness, enjoyment and emotion of the original film more so than this one did. I’m rating The Lego Batman Movie a 3.5/5. Good geeky fun.

What did you think of the film? Better that The Lego Movie or worse? Let me know in the comments below?


Thanks for reading!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

GUEST POST: Top Ten Musicals

This latest guest post comes from my friend and work colleague, Kris Steed. Kris has an infectious passion for film and is aspiring to turn that passion into a writing career. He will be setting up his own blog soon, so if you like what you read then I will put a link to it in a later post. In this post, he counts down his top ten favourite movie musicals - just in time for the UK release of La La Land. So read on and enjoy.

The days of the MGM musicals are sadly long behind us. With the increasing realism of cinema becoming more and more apparent, many moviegoers refuse to suspend reality whenever an actor suddenly breaks into song. Will there ever be a film to change that view? Or will the musical genre continue to divide audiences for years to come?

Well fortunately it seems that director Damien Chazelle's new film La La Land appears to be the perfect antidote to steer us into the new year, arriving in cinemas in the UK on the 13th January.

So to get us in the toe-tapping mood, here are my top 10 picks of the best musicals to grace the silver screen...

10. Guys and Dolls

Uneven, problematic and cartoonish. Those are the easiest criticisms for Guys and Dolls. But who gives a damn? The musical sequences are gorgeous and lively, depicting an old fashioned world where men were men and women were strung along for the ride. With catchy tunes and eye popping dance numbers, this movie has MGM classic written all over it and will continue to be loved for years to come.

9. Meet Me in St. Louis

Starring Judy Garland, this slice of 1900's USA is a delightful Sunday afternoon affair that boasts classic songs such as "The Trolley Song" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". Based on the memoirs of a real life family, Meet Me in St Louis depicts the ups and downs of living in America during the turn of the century. And with Garland at the peak of her career, there are endless amounts of musical treats to be enjoyed in this technicolour gem.

8. Moulin Rouge!

Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, The Great Gatsby) has never been a creature of subtlety and Moulin Rouge is no exception. An explosive visual feast which may be exhausting and overwhelming for some; but for all you hopeless romantics out there, prepare to fall completely in love with this Bohemian landmark in cinema. With theatrical twists on famous well-known pop songs, bold colours and broad intimidating characters, a night at the Moulin Rouge! will provide you with the exhilarating excess you've been missing from your lives.

7. The Sound of Music

Being forced to watch this as a young boy with your sister was extremely painful. However, it didn't take me too long to realise how much of a masterpiece The Sound of Music really is. This musical adaptation of the Von Trapp family oozes with ambition in both its musicality and cinematography. From the sweeping shots of the Austrian mountains, to the technicolour intimacy of the Gazebo, this movie entertains from start to finish. As one of the greatest pick-me-ups you could ever slide into your DVD player, The Sound of Music will refuse to ever leave the minds of those lucky enough to visit it.

6. My Fair Lady

Although this musical has some bad memories for me (more specifically me singing "Get Me to The Church" at a music recital with a cockney accent even Dick Van Dyke would cringe at) I still cannot deny the excellence of this film. A stunning big budget production which garnered a total of 8 Oscars, My Fair Lady is essential viewing for any musical theatre nut. Boasting an excellent cast featuring the legendary Audrey Hepburn, every frame of this film is slick, graceful and rich in Edwardian culture. That's without mentioning the intelligent song writing that does more than entertain, but also succeeds in enriching each character we see on screen. A classic 1960's masterpiece which I'd urge anyone to see, just don't ever try to mimic one of its song at a music recital.

5. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

The darkly comic gorefest that is Sweeney Todd is renowned for being one of Tim Burton's high points as a Director. With excellent pacing, set design and character study, we delve deep into the underground world of one of Victorian London's greatest legends. I remember being surprised by the intricacy of Johnny Depp's performance and how his dark eyes were lifeless portals, devoid of any happiness or joy. All that remained was the intent to exact revenge against the corrupt Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) who exiled him to Australia and stole the love of his life. With intense musical sequences and spine-tingling twists and turns, Sweeney Todd is a convincing revenge story that will appeal to more than just the average musical lover.

4. West Side Story

What would appear to be the standard run of the mill musical, West Side Story is instead an explosive and raw reimagining of the Romeo and Juliet story, where two star crossed lovers from opposing communities fall in love in the dangerous backdrop of New York City. Full of passion, high energy and terrific musical numbers, West Side Story is unique in both the scope of its production and the grueling dances that the actors are forced to perform on location. But on another level there is plenty of creative subtlety to be enjoyed. The bold colour scheme of scolding reds drench each scene, foreshadowing the tragedy that these two young lovers will inevitably face. If you're not big into musicals then this will certainly challenge you in terms of its theatrical pacing. But if you're up for the ride then West Side Story will leave you in sheer awe.

3. Cabaret

Everyone has heard of it, but not everyone has seen it. Should you be concerned? My answer is YES. Cabaret is a chilling, bawdy and sometimes disturbing look at a 1930's Berlin cabaret club during a time where Nazism began to take its hold on the nation. This is by no means an ordinary musical, Cabaret is a much darker beast where director Bob Fosse knows his source material and focuses on it with pin-point precision. But don't get me wrong, there is still a heap of fun to be had with glamourous and bombastic musical numbers with larger-than-life characters. The 70's wasn't the greatest decade for the film-musical genre, but this one is enough to make up for it.

2. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg  
     
The most underrated classic on this list is the uncompromising French Musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. A story of two lovers who are forced to separate due to war. Surely this is one of the most romantic films ever made. Watching this, I was reminded that what I was experiencing was more of an opera than a musical. Every line in the movie is sung, evoking a parallel reality in which everyone communicates their thoughts and feelings through song. It's a truly magical experience. And this is all without mentioning the beautiful cinematography which transports you into a world of florescent colour and undying love. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg has truly stood the test of time and continues to excite new generations of not just musical lovers, but cinema lovers also.

1. Singin' in the Rain

Usually it's extremely difficult to find a film which defines a genre, but Singin' in the Rain not only wins that title, but carries it to almost unreachable heights. Set in the stylish setting of 1920's LA, Singin' in the Rain is the story of how a famous actor and a production company make a reluctant transition to sound. The story works really well and is a solid foundation for the film, but what really elevates this film into its legendary status is its abundance of charm. This film is steered into victory by its charismatic trio (Kelly, Reynolds and O'Connor) who spend the 103 minute runtime tap dancing their way into your hearts. Singin' in the Rain is a perfect example of how musicals and cinema can co-exist in perfect harmony to transport us to a place where the world dissolves away and dreams become reality.

So there you go, the top ten musicals according to Kris Steed. I definitely need to catch up on some of these! Feel free to leave some feedback down in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!