Dark Phoenix ★★☆☆☆

It’s been a long and ardours journey, but the latest instalment of the X-men saga has arrived. With the Disney merging fast approaching, can the franchise sign off in blaze of glory? Picking up 10 years after the events of Apocalypse our heroes find out there’s a threat much closer to home than they expected.

Directed by Simon Kinberg

Starring Sophie Turner, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender,Nicholas Hoult


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John Wick: Chapter 3 ★★★☆☆

Picking up right after Chapter 2, does the action packed revenge-fest deliver for a third time ? It’s a mixed bag from us….

Directed by Chad Stahelski

Starring Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry, Laurence Fishburne


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Review / Creed ★★★★☆

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When the Creed spin off was first announced, audiences were skeptical to if this was simply another money grabbing franchise, put together for a quick cash in. But just like prior release Rocky Balboa, Creed proved to be an excellent addition to the Rocky series. Focusing on the illegitimate son of Apollo Creed, Adonis Creed(Michael B Jordan), as he is taken under the wings of a retired Rocky. Creed 2, no longer has the influential Ryan Coogler attached to the project, but ultimately, new director Steven Caple Jr. still delivers an excellent sequel.

Even though the fights bring the glamour to these movies, the Rocky franchise has always been more about the story and character development. Creed 2 manages to give both Creed, and his rival, the son of the lethal Ivan Drago, Viktor (Munteanu) , some real personality. Adonis is actually far more unlikable in this film, as opposed to Viktor. Adonis with his arrogance and resentment, comes across far more conflicted, which makes his progress throughout the movie far more enjoyable. Dealing with his engagement and child brings him a far tougher challenge than anything the ring has thrown at him.

Speaking of Viktor, he is far more captivating of an opponent, than the rival in the first film (boxer Tony Bellew’s Ricky Conlon). Conlon was simply a generic cocky, brash prize-fighter, seen many times over. Although Munteanu is not a professional boxer, unlike Bellew, his relationship with his once formidable, but now disgraced father Ivan (Lundgren) really gives Viktor an edge in terms of a personality. The final showdown is done is such a way, you really do end up rooting for both of them to win, as they are both dealing with such inner turmoil. The boxing is as well filmed as they always are in this franchise. You can really feel every killer hook or brutal knockdown.

Stallone is as endearing as always as the aging Italian Stallion, though he doesn’t have as big a role as the previous film,  his character is as warming as ever, and his arc does get wrapped up nicely. If the rumors are true, it would be a nice way to write out the legend. Tessa Thompson also shines again as Creed’s partner Bianca, she is nicely incorporated into Adonis’s facade both in and out the ring. It would have been easy for the film to simply wash over her hearing issues, but it’s used for some powerful scenes this time around.

The movie does suffer from following the usual Rocky formula, borrowing elements from both Rocky 3 & 4. The film is rather predictable to any one who is familiar with any of the previous entries, It’s also a shame that Rocky & Drago don’t really share much screen time together, bar their first meeting early in the movie. Apparently there were some post fight scenes as our old foes share a moment of respect, but it was cut. As soon as the final fight ends, it cuts right to the conclusion of the film. One other nagging moment is that the iconic training montage just seems to lack something to make it Rocky caliber, not just your everyday montage.

Those criticisms aside, Creed 2 is still a fascinating sequel. Adonis really changes as a person, and our antagonist is also as endearing as our hero. The fight scenes are incredibly powerful and wonderfully shot. In all honesty, there really is no need to make a third installment. Though if anything, a film following the Dragos journey to redemption would be just as intriguing to watch.

Review / Overlord ★★★☆☆

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Directed by: Julius Avery
Starring : Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, John Magaro, Mathilde Ollivier

Curiously just missing the Halloween market, considering its zombie packed adventures, Overlord is one of the best video-game adaptations…that isn’t based off a video game! Set just before the D-Day landings, a group of soldiers are dropped in beyond enemy lines to take down a radio tower. What seems like a pretty routine mission soon turns into a survival mission, not from the battlefield, but from forces for more sinister.

The wartime zombie setting provides the film with a Wolfenstien vibe, a set of video games that also focus on defeating hordes of the undead during WW2.  This also feels like the Resident Evil movie we should have got, as opposed to what we ended up getting…….several times.

The cast here are pretty low key, there really isn’t a big name to give the movie some much needed star power. Boyce (Adepo) is out main protagonist, a young american dropped into a scenario he really isn’t comfortable with,  there isn’t much wrong with the character, but the constant reminder of how kind he is throughout does get a tad bit  annoying! He is supported by battle hardened Ford (Russell, son of Kurt!), and Tibert (Magaro) the sniper expert.  After a disastrous landing, they regroup and take refuge in  the home of local French civilian Chloe (Olivier), as they attempt to regroup and carry out their operation.

Though the film is marketed as a straight up horror film in the trailers,  that’s not the entire story. The first half has a very strong survival horror element to it,  from the tense battlefield segments, which involves an excellent opening parachute sequence, to the discovery of the secret enemy lab, containing several disturbing experiments. This is by far the strongest part of the film. The story balances the unknown terrors that lurk behind the walls of the enemy, and the constant threat of war.  Matching enemy soldiers is one thing, but dealing with the undead? Not so simple!

The second half, whilst still doing a decent job, switches things up, and it becomes an out and out action film.  Our villain, a generic German officer, goes from an everyday high ranking soldier, to a crazed maniac with a god complex seemingly overnight.  The film gets rather ridiculous and exaggerated once the zombies are released. but it definitely has a video-game charm to it, which makes it work.

While the story as a whole does enough to make the audience care for whats happening, it would have been better if they spent a bit more time in the lab, and the nightmares buried inside.  The horror parts are what this film does best, and it would have been more thrilling to see more of that, than what is going on between our heroes back at the hideout.

Overlord falls very much in the cheesy B Movie category,  with enough horror, gore and an extravagant villain to keep things amusing. While the movie could be open to a sequel, it thankfully doesn’t have any kind of sequel bait or tease at the end, so it feels like a closed chapter on its own. Whilst they could have added some more sinister elements to it, the zombie war shooter is a great watch, and with a run time of under 2 hours,  it won’t feel like a drag.

 

Review / Venom ★★☆☆☆

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The central theme in Venom surrounds the split personality of our protagonist Eddie Brock, this also reflects the movie in general, as it just can’t decide what kind of film it wants to be. Venom goes back and forth between a dark thriller to comedy to buddy cop, delivering a conflicted final cut, leaving everyone confused.

Making his return following the disastrous Spiderman 3, Venom is back after 11 long years. After getting in contact with an alien symbiotic organism, whilst investigating a shady organisation, down on his luck Eddie Brock (Hardy) suddenly discovers that he isn’t the only person inside his mind! With his new-found powers, can he tame the malicious Venom, as he aims to take back control of his life?

Without a doubt, Hardy and his scenes with Venom are by far the strongest parts of the film. The film takes a while to ramp up the action, but once the symbiote starts to take over, the intensity takes off! The constant conflict between the two sets up some great scenes, as he struggles to remain in charge. The action set pieces with Venom are a blast, showing the true threat of the symbiotic terror. The powers that Venom possesses are awesome, and it’s great fun to see him go all out, wiping the floor with countless goons.

Though that’s where the film really has to offer is regards to promise. Venom for some reason decides to go full out comedy, ala Nutty Professor. Some scenes where he is struggling to restrain the beast are comically bad, and Brock’s breakdown in a restaurant is incredibly awkward, almost Nicolas Cage levels of insane! Venom constantly demeans Brock for no real reason, yes, it may deliver some cheap laughs, but it goes totally against Venom’s actions when he reveals his true intentions. There is a strange buddy cop vibe, which seems so out of place in a film such as this.

Generic Evil Corporation #2158, The Life Foundation, led by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), is the big bad here. Ahmed does an OK job as the villain, but he really has nothing much to work with, apart from being a young prodigy who is a CEO in his 30s. We don’t really go into what his motivations are, why did he become so crazed? His behavior is pretty much psychotic, but we see nothing to show why he has become this unhinged person, which greatly hurts the character.  Brock’s love interest here, Anne (Michelle Williams) is devoid of anything interesting, and is for some reason, forced into the final scenes of the movie far too much.

The film is also oddly mild, considering the vicious monster Venom is. Whereas Deadpool & Logan have shown that if it’s done well, an R rating is not a bad thing, if anything, it can enhance a movie. The lack of any blood at all is confusing. There are scenes where people’s heads are bitten off, or get impaled, but the clean nature of the scenes makes Venom look sterile. Venom never really feels as dangerous as he should be.

Venom should do well enough at the Box Office to earn itself a sequel, hopefully the studio will take the feedback from this, and produce a far more polished final product. Though it may seem a far reach, the presence of Spiderman, regardless of how small it is, would be great for Venom to play off against down the road.

 

Soldado Unravels…★★★

Incredibly intense and wonderfully filmed, Sicario was one of the stand out films of 2015.  The success of the original meant a sequel was inevitable, but without the influence of Denis Villeneuve and leading lady Emily Blunt, can this installment match the heights of the original?

Sicario : Day of the Soldado, directed this time, by Taylor Sheridan, follows CIA agent Graver (Brolin) as he once again enlists the assistance of rogue operative Alejandro (Del Toro) to destabilize the Mexican drug cartels, who are suspected of smuggling in terrorists across the US border. They aim to accomplish this by staging the kidnapping  of the young daughter (Moner) of the cartel kingpin, and in effect, creating a civil war.

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The opening and middle chapters of the movie are still as potent as the original.  The film mixes the bloody violence and brutal nature of the cartels, with the meticulous nature of our agents well. Brolin who is having a very successful summer, is as fierce as ever. And Benicio Del Toro is the same mysterious, magnetic hitman from before. Although the film loses the character the audience could relate with (Blunt from Sicario), our duo as strong enough to keep her loss to a minimum. Isabela Moner, who yet again plays another young character with her namesake (after her role in The Last Knight!) also gives a great performance as a young girl caught up as the innocent pawn in a government covert operation.

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As the plot starts starts to come together towards the climax, is when things really start to fall off. It was reported that the original screenplay was changed, and the film loses its traction it begins with. The plot starts to leave far to many gaps, and character decisions that really go against their previous actions. Alejandro, who was a ruthless assassin, willing to kill children, suddenly develops paternal like behavior, in hardly any time. We also never really know who the true antagonist is, the cartels? The US government? It’s obvious to see that this is a part 2 of 3, leaving a bit too much unexplained for the third chapter. The operation itself rather falls apart way to quickly, for something that was planned with laser precision. Unfortunately the film makes decisions that feel like a cop out, where the first was praised for the gutsy decisions the script took.

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The tension and suspense the film creates is still on point. There are moments in the movie you will honestly want to look away. The Beast, the daunting, yet iconic soundtrack from the original returns, and when it starts intensifying, the tension cranks all the way up! The ambush scene is magnificently shot, and comes out of nowhere!

Soldado is not a match to the original, but the characters are more than strong enough to carry the film onto the obvious third installment. Sadly it does feel like filler, but maybe after the final chapter, Soldado will look better in hindsight.


 

*THE BEAST INTENSIFIES* 

Fallen Kingdom / Review

Jurassic World was a triumphant return back to the big screen for the Jurassic Park franchise, after a 14 year hiatus since Jurassic Park 3JW received not only glowing reviews, but took in a staggering $1.6bn at the box office, so no pressure on the sequel….

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, directed by J.A. Bayona, brings back our leading duo Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) & Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), as they return to Isla Nublar, to coordinate a rescue mission lead by Benjamin Lockwood, the former business partner of John Hammond, o save our reptilian inhabitants from a volcanic fate.

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Essentially, the movie is what you expect from a huge Summer blockbuster, it’s an impressive spectacle, dazzling CGI, hugely thrilling and comedic banter. But it does fail with its story, as the plot regresses back to the usual weaponized dinosaurs arch we have already seen.

The chemistry between our leads is far more cohesive here, their interactions feel less forced than it did in JW, FK gives them far more to do, and they break out of the typecasts they had in the first one. Claire is far more interesting as the head of a Dinosaur conservation group, rather than the dull, cold, career focused executive. The film also makes firm point regarding the boots she now wears, after the heels debacle from the last film!  They are joined on their adventure by fellow conservation staff members’ Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda), a sassy and sharp witted veterinarian, and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith), the systems analyst, his character does grate a lot, as he is pretty much reduced to the petrified screaming comic relief, though he does tone it down over the course of the movie, Zia is far more tolerable as a character.

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The dinosaurs are of course the reason why we’re here! Blue, the surviving member of Owen’s raptor squad is back, and has a leading role! The film can be split into 2, the island rescue, and back at the Lockwood mansion. The island scenes are amazing to watch, the CGI is as always stunning, and the inevitable fate of the island does lead to a frankly very emotional scene as our heroes make their escape. The big gun for this film is another hybrid creation, the Indoraptor, the cross between the Indominus Rex from JW, and a raptor. It of course escapes, and stalks our protagonists as they attempt to stop the plans of our villain. In all honestly, the Indoraptor does not feel like anything special, and still gets outshone by the T-Rex. Although Blue is still an enjoyable addition to the Jurassic clan, it has rather subdued the wicked nature of the deadly Velociraptors from movies past, now seeming more like a charming sidekick, than its previous iterations.

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The villain of the story is where things start to fall apart, who is simply a generic suit who just wants to get rich quick. It’s pretty obvious from the start who is the underlying antagonist, and it really does hurt the plot. While it is a fresh change to take the adventure away from the island setting, the weaponized dinosaurs storyline still feels ridiculous, in a film containing dinosaurs! The final 3rd of the does’ drag on for a tad too long, as our heroes are stalked through the mansion by the genetic raptor, if could have been concluded far more swiftly. There is also a ridiculous twist regarding the granddaughter of the mansion, which is utterly brushed over by the characters, and feels like a contrived plot device for the films end. The Mosasaurus, the gigantic ocean beast, which featured in the trailers, was seriously underused.

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Fallen Kingdom does feel far more unique than its predecessor, JW felt like a simple remake of the original JP, whereas FK stands alone far better, with a far more warming duo and change of scenery. It’s not an outstanding outing, but fans of the last film will have no reason to not enjoy this!

Infinity War:Destiny Arrives

After 10 years of anticipation and endless movies, the big one is finally here,  with so much to talk about, we’ve broken down our *(Spoiler -Free!) review into the key points, enjoy 🙂


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The Villain

The MCU has had a horrid track record for villains, barring Loki, the string of antagonists in several movies such as GotG, all 3 Ironman movies, Thor: The Dark World, all suffered from being a lousy foil. Though as of late, things have started to look far better. The Vulture (Spiderman Homecoming) and especially Killmonger (Black Panther) were great bad guys. Thanos has had very little screen time, apart from a few minutes now and again, or an end credit scene. But here, Thanos not only possesses the power to destroy pretty much any one of our heroes at will, he also has a clear plan in his head. As crazy as he may be, he believes what he is doing is for the greater good, and not just doing it for the cliche world combination etc. This is very much a Thanos movie, and Josh Brolin does an immense job bring such gravitas to a CGI villain! He also throws a moon as a weapon……..


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The Chemistry

It’s what fans have been waiting for, how awesome it would be to finally see all their favourite heroes from across all the movies finally getting together. The results, are as hilarious as you would expect, from a franchise that delivers fantastic humour. Ironman & Doctor Strange, both sarcastic, and confident of themselves, deliver excellent wit, as they constantly exchange one liners.  Thor meeting the Guardians of the Galaxy, comedy gold! Rocket & Thor have a surprisingly endearing relationship, which you would not have guessed at the start. All out heroes get their moment to shine, but Drax, Mantis & Banner offer the best when it comes to the comic relief.  There are so many memorable lines from various characters, that they will be quoted for a long time!


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The Action

Without spoiling too much, the action delivers. Considering the sheer number of participants, it could have got very shambolic. The stand out scenes include the showdown on Titan, the surprise late night train station entrance to make the save, and the obvious Wakada battle Basically, anytime the now legendary Avengers music kicks in!  As immense as the Wakada war is, it does get a bit too much at times, with the sheer number of disposable alien fodder being used to overwhelm the heroes.


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The Black Order

Or the ‘Children of Thanos’, as they are also called, are the henchmen that support the Mad Titan on his quest. They are supposed to act as some sort of viable opponents to the Avengers, as they work in the shadows to help Thanos gather all the stones.  But unfortunately, we don’t really know much of them, and barely even bother to remember all their names (Proxima Midnight sounds cool, but like, that’s about it).  Ebony Maw, out evil sorcerer is actually one of the more interesting of the clan, as worthy rival to Doctor Strange, but the rest? Thoroughly underused, and utterly forgettable.


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The Plot

Essentially we have 4 story arcs that are woven together overly this huge run time. Credit has to go to the Russo Brothers for together such an epic tale. You have the ‘Space’ team out on the home planet of Thanos, Titan.  The ‘Wakanda’ team, who hold the battle lines down on Earth. Thanos himself has an intriguing storyline as we follow his journey, and finally Thor head out into the depths of Space, for his own agenda.  It is a lot, but that’s to be expected, it’s also a great way to isolate the gigantic cast into smaller teams, rather than throwing all 40+ cast members onto the screen.  Though this also means some characters don’t have as much screen time as you would think, Captain America is no way near as prominent as you would think here. But the story does deliver, and sure packs a lot of emotional hits. As the plots slowly start to merge towards the end, it all pays off, speaking of…..

The Ending

Well……..didn’t see that coming. And I’ll leave it at just that!


Overall, Infinity War is a tribute to the legacy of the MCU, after 10 years and 18 movies. This is a film that fans will adore, the plus 2hr runtime will breeze by, as you are caught up in all the drama. But the film isn’t for everyone, casual fans may still be able to enjoy it, but it will for sure drag on.

 

 

 

 

Tomb Raider, A Steady Reboot

The Tomb Raider franchise has gone through a rejuvenation of late, following the superbly gritty video game reboots, Tomb Raider (2013) & Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015). These games take place at the start of her adventures, featuring , a younger, more fragile Lara Croft. As opposed to the confident & sexy version many are accustomed too.

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With her dad going missing, presumed dead, on an expedition, Lara (Alicia Vikander), attempts to carry on with her life without resorting to the vast financial aid that she could access with a simple signature. As this would mean for her to accept her fathers death. But the appearance of a relic provides her with a clue, that things may not have been as they appeared on the surface, and takes her on a voyage out to the Far East.

Video game movies seem to be a cursed project, even away from the cheesy 90s releases that the industry still carries the scars of, recent attempts such as Assassins’ Creed & Warcraft have been critical failures. But I’m glad to say, Tomb Raider is an honest adaptation of it’s source, while going off script enough to not make it a like for like copy.

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The similarities between the game and movie are more cosmetic if anything. Lara is still a young rookie, who is way out of her comfort zone, having to adapt in the face of death. You also have the hidden Japanese island of Yamatai, where the body of the mythical figure of Himiko resides, which is where the plot mainly focuses on. This is pretty much what the movie borrows from the game, the rest are worked around those points. You have Lu Ren (Daniel Wu), a sailor, who joins Lara on her journey in exchange for a hefty wad of cash. Ren is a character the audience can warm too, and thankfully the film does not force a romance between the two. Lara’s father (Dominic West) plays a far bigger role here, than the game, and it does feel very cliched, using the ‘daddy issues’ story. It does grate a bit, but the resolution of that arch plays off surprisingly well. Walton Goggins, our antagonist, is wonderfully menacing as the dastardly Vogel. Every time he shows up, you wish him the worst! A great sign of a well played villain.

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Where the film shines brightest are the survival scenes & solo combat. This version of Lara takes a physical battering in the games, and Vikander here goes through a lot too, she also looks the part , in fine physical shape, as one must be in such an intense physical role. When she’s not falling off trees, or flying through debris, she’s being impaled by branches. There is a lot of yelling and grunting in pain! It makes the character seem far more vulnerable and endearing. The game has a rather satisfying use of the Bow, and it features a lot here too! The legendary Ice Axe also makes an appearance!

The film still has some big flaws. They have changed a fair part of the Himiko backstory, the game goes down a far more supernatural route, whereas the film plays it far more safe. The film also fails to really show much of Lara’s backstory, apart from her sparring sessions, it’s a huge leap of faith to believe that suddenly, she has the skills to survive out in the wilderness, we don’t see much of her exploration/survival skills beforehand. The moment when she does make her first kill is rather underwhelming here, where in the game, it was a pivotal moment for her as a person, and having to accept what she had done. Here, the moment is all to brief, and suddenly cuts back to the main story. The missing Father story line has been played over many a times, and would have been more intriguing had they used another plot device to drive the story on.

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Tomb Raider does play it safe here, and you can tell, with its rather generic and cliched story. But judging it as a video game adaptation, it’s done a perfectly good job. Vikander is excellent as Croft, and Lu Ren is a great partner for her future travels. If you’re a fan of the games, you will enjoy this adaptation, while it’s no where near are deep or immersive as the games, but that’s to be expected, having to cut the massive adventure into a single feature length film. It doesn’t do anything too new, but it should do enough to merit a second outing.

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