Wonder Woman Works Wonders!

It’s fair to say that the DC Extended Universe (DCEU) has been disappointingly underwhelming so far. With their rivals Marvel seeming to roll off hit after hit, releases such as Suicide Squad, and more importantly, Dawn of Justice (DoJ) did not garner the attention they would have expected. While DoJ was frankly all over the place,  one of the brightest sparks in the film was the introduction of Wonder Women, who now has her own solo outing. Can this be the vital turning point for the future of the DCEU? Or will it once again fail to deliver?

While Wonder Women shone in DoJ, we knew very little about the character herself, apart from being mighty handy with a sword! Wonder Women follows the journey of Diana of Themyscira AKA Diana Price (Gal Gadot) growing up and training on the paradise island of Themyscira. But trouble soon hits the island after Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), a pilot for the British army crashes nearby, drawing the attention of the pursuing German army to the island. Diana soon takes it upon herself to leave the island, and rid the world of war.

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One of the most common criticisms of prior DC movies were the grim colour palette they adopted.  The dark filters all over the movies did not give the films much soul, even Superman’s costume is a dark navy! But here, the film is gorgeous,  the scenes especially on Themyscira are vivid and rich is colour. It may be a purely cosmetic aspect, but it makes the film just looks so much more appealing right away! Even Wonder Women’s armour in DoJ was a dull brown/bronze. Here, its back to the iconic blue & red!

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But what about movie, does it stand up to the pleasing aesthetic’s of the film?  It may have taken a long time, but it’s safe to say, that the DCEU finally has a bona fide smash hit! Patty Jenkins has managed to create a movie that manages to combine the charm of the comics with some exhilarating action set pieces.  Female superhero movies do not have the best of track records.  Catwomen (2004) & Elektra (2005) , the last two female heroes, were dire, and their effects probably explain the severe lack of movies with female heroes. Even Black Widow from Marvel still has no movie! WW does not fall into the same traps, and makes Diana look like a bigger threat to Superman than Batman!

You can probably describe the movie as a mash up of The First Avenger & Thor. With it’s setting during World War I and wartime London, along with the social fish out of water, who struggles to integrate into a new way of life! The film knows when it can afford to be funny, and not looked forced. Her interactions in London provide most of the comic relief, but the jokes work well. Whereas Suicide Squad underwent various cuts, to be more humorous to the audience!

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By far, the best parts of the film are the combat scenes. When she isn’t walking alone into No Man’s Land during intense gunfire, she pretty much knees a soldier through a building! All the combat sequences are choreographed well, in such a way, it doesn’t look ridiculous on why her hand to hand combat works effectively against an army of armed soldiers! The film also makes good use of her other weapons in her armory, such as the Lasso of Truth, which let’s be honest, could have looked very cheesy if done wrong! The film does well to not mention her gender constantly on the battle field. The soldiers are more impressed with her sheer bravery and power than the fact it’s a women out there.

Gal Gadot’s casting as Diana is pretty much spot on,  and it wouldn’t be surprising to see if this role is associated with her like Tony Stark & Robert Downey Jr. Chris Pine as Steve Trevor provides a great support character & love interest. But it never seems forced upon the audience, and Steve has a great character arc for himself. His charm brings a lot of likability to his character. His secretary, Etta Candy (Lucy Davies) may just be there for the humour, but she provides a jovial foil, to a movie that is about death and war.

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It’s not all good news though, and where the film does fall flat is with the antagonists. General Ludendorff (Danny Huston) & Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya) never feel like a serious threat during the entire movie. You just know WW could probably knee them through a building without a seconds thought (yes, that kneeing someone through a building scene is amazing!). But the villains do introduce the element of Magic into the DCEU, which should play a large role down the road.  Also, the final battle does seem to be a tad dull. It looks spectacular, but it just feels a bit rushed, just a head on fist fight,  and its done. Also the accents are never consistent, some characters speak with a strong British#German accent, whiles others do not, just a slight knit pick!

That being said, it should not detract from this being one of the biggest hits of the year. It is a shame that this film didn’t come of before DoJ, as it would have made sense to have her solo outing before the ensemble performance.  But the films splendid action, chemistry between our two leads, fantastic musical score and lore make Wonder Woman a great addition to the DCEU, and finally gives the big screen a strong powerful female superhero.

3 Word Review…..

About Time DC!

 

Sleepless Will Make You Zzzz

There’s been lull at the cinemas recently, with the behemoth that is Guardians dominating the box office, the releases around this time of year have been pretty low profile. One movie that has ducked under the radar is Sleepless, which is in fact a remake of the well acclaimed French movie Sleepless Night.

Sleepless sees our hero, Vincent Down (Jamie Foxx), working for the Las Vegas PD, working undercover to expose a drug cartel. After an operation goes wrong with his partner (T.I), Vincent ends up upsetting the wrong people, who in retaliation kidnap his son. The deal is simple, return their drugs, we return your son. But with Internal Affairs officer Bryant (Michelle Monaghan) on his case, not everything goes to plan!

Sleepless has not received the best of receptions critically, 22% & 33% are its scores on Rotten Tomatoes & Metacritic respectively. So expectations were not high going into this! It is fair to say though, while the movie may not be utterly dreadful, it is ridiculously dull. Considering the movie has corrupt cops, drug dealers, casinos and gangsters, it’s disappointing to see how tepid it ends up.

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Foxx is by far the brightest light in the film, his role may be that of a generic undercover cop (his been undercover for 2 years you know!! He never stops mentioning it!) Who has to shun his family for the greater good, but he puts in a dedicated effort to bring some vigour to the movie. The film tries to put him at a disadvantage early on, with a stab wound, which was a great way to immobilize our protagonist.  But it’s so inconsistent; the wound never acts up when his in a confrontation, but always magically flares up when he is being pursued. Fighting viciously in the kitchen? That’s fine, running down the stairs, wound says no!

The film also does a slick job with the filming, the Las Vegas sky line offers the film several moments to capture the scenery, and it’s something Collateral did very well in, a film that Foxx also starred in! Director Baron bo Odar deserves credit in that regards, creating a visually vivid production.

But that’s pretty much all there is regarding the positives, the rest of the cast and plot is dire. Bryant, who is supposed to be the foil to Down, spends most of the movie annoyed or standing around clueless in the Casino foyer! Monaghan just spends the movie dreary eyed looking lost half the time! It’s hard to take her character seriously when she can’t even suspect her colleague, who is pretty much the ‘most obvious corrupt cop ever ®, for being involved. Working in I.A should give her some knack of noticing suspicious behaviour! Also, she just isn’t a very good officer, even one of the staff in the casino call her out on it. Rather that giving a description of who she is looking for, she just barges in yelling! Great police work there!

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The action to say the least feels like a low budget version of John Wick or as mentioned before, The Equalizer. They even have a club scene, which Collateral & John Wick executed in a far stylish way. The son, whose hand gets crippled, runs around the place like it’s all fine. A young kid who had his hand pretty much mangled should be in severe agony, but I suppose he does hold it every now and again, to show it’s injured!

The finale gets pretty nonsensical, after the mother, who is a nurse, just happens to join in with the gun toting shoot-out, which seemed so horribly out of place and rather comedic.

Scoot McNairy, as Novak, is adequate as the crazed son of a drug lord, who will torture even his own family if the situation arose, but our formulaic drug dealing casino boss Stanley Rubino, is so clichéd, you don’t care at all about what happens to him. Neither villains really stand out, and not once, feel like a real threat to our hero. The plot of the movie is so straight forwards. Summed up in ‘Where are my drugs?!’, literally that is all that happens here.

Sleepless could have worked, if the villains were fleshed out more, and the cast was given more to work with. You’re only really bothered about Jamie Foxx, and his journey throughout the film, every time it cuts away to another character, the film drastically drops any momentum it has. It’s in no ways the worst film to come out this year, but it feels like a movie that could have been released straight to DVD or Netflix!

 

 

 

Guardians Vol. 2, Good, Not Great

Back in 2014, when Guardians of the Galaxy dropped into cinemas, there was little expectation and much skepticism. Compared to established heroes like Ironman, Thor and Captain America,  GOTG was a very niche franchise. With a small fan base, and Chris Pratt, who up until then, was mostly known for his comedic shenanigans in the sit-com Parks & Recs, taking the lead role in a Hollywood blockbuster. The film was a huge risk, were Marvel getting too arrogant? Well they proved the doubters wrong, GOTG proved to be a resounding success, the film brought a new level of humour and fun not seen in previous MCU entries, and it stands 5th in the list of box office takings for all Marvel releases. Can the sequel, titled GOTG :Volume 2 match the magic and charm that the original encapsulated so well?

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Avengers……Assemble!

Volume 2, takes place soon after our heroes first adventure, as we re-join the antics of Peter Quill AKA Starlord (Chris Pratt), the feisty Gamara (Zoe Saldana), the wise cracking Rocket (Bradley Cooper), deadpan Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista) and the adorable Baby Groot (Vin Diesel)! With their new found fame, the team are offered more high profile missions & with increasing rewards, but after being caught attempting to hustle one of their clients, the team end up on the run, only to be saved by a mysterious man, named Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be the long lost father of Quill, and help him fulfill his true potential.

Where the first movie excelled in was the chemistry between the members of our ragtag team, and it’s great to say that the same level of cohesion remains with our squad. If anything, the jokes and quips are even better than the first, and the film definitely has more laughs (Trash Panda!) than the first movie! The bickering between Quill & Rocket is constantly dropping zingers, and the writers have used the traits of Drax in order to write in several well placed jokes!

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I…AM….GROOT!!

The introduction of Baby Groot was a wonderful addiction,  not only is he an adorable member of the group, Baby Groot also has several moments where he is involved in key parts of the story, he’s not only there for selling merchandise!

In my opinion, the most enjoyable aspect of Volume 2 is the development of the bonds between certain characters; there are several relationships that are strengthened over the course of their adventure. You have the central arc of Peter reacquainting himself with his father, Ego. But there are several characters who get a lot more depth to their persona. The aggressive vendetta that Nebula (Karen Gilan)  has with her sister, Gamora is given some more time, and Nebula comes across somewhat sympathetic, with the audience having a reason to see why she is so spiteful.

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Yondu shines bright in Volume 2

Yondu (Micheal Rooker), also returns, but now is a disgraced member of the Ravagers, after he is exiled. He and Rocket share plenty of screen time together,  and create a great camaraderie with each other, in turn, they learn that they may not be so different after all. Yondu has the most development here, and his progression as a character is really padded out,  he is probably the stand out character in the flick!

Unfortunately, the movie, when compared to Volume 1, is not anywhere near as great. The story-line regarding Peter & Ego does seem to go on for a bit too long. It is pretty predictable where it will all end up, as the signs are seen pretty early on. Although the story line does wrap up Peter’s origin. It still feels pretty underwhelming to say the least. The majority of the movie takes place on Ego’s planet, where a bit of space travel would have been more interesting to see.

The secondary villain, Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki) the snobby leader of the people of Sovereign, a race of beings with a huge superiority complex. First appears to be a real threat. But she disappears for most of the movie, only to show up again near the finale. It’s a shame we didn’t see more of her and her people, as their disdainful nature was good fun to watch!

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Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2..Drax (Dave Bautista)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2017

Drax is also left on the sidelines , his sheer strength is never fully utilised. He is probably the best when it comes to the one liners, but regarding the action, he rarely has any scenes, apart from the opening credits. Drax is a mountain of muscle, but he spends most of the movie in conversation with Ego’s assistant, Mantis.

Volume 2 may not be as strong as Volume 1, and it does have a few flaws to contend with. But it’s another solid entry into the ever-expanding MCU. The film does go a lot more into our characters and their pasts, which give the movie an emotional attachment. It’s also just as hilarious as the original, which fans will savior! Oh, and make sure to hang back for FOUR post credit scenes! Their spoiling us now…..

 

Retro Rewind : Commando (1985)

There are always gems hidden away on Netflix, and browsing through it the other day, I came across one of my favourite movies from way back in the days! Commando was the very definition of prime Schwarzenegger!! The one man army, the puns, the cheesy dialogue, Commando had it all! At only 90 minutes, it’s a fun way to pass some time!

 

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This is how the film starts! 

The plot is so very simple. Retired special ops agent John Matrix (Arnold) is living the quite life out in the forests, with his daughter Jenny (A young Alyssa Milano!). The intro to the movie is a serene, joyful sequence, showing the loving father & daughter living the good life, spending quality family time together, having ice cream etc. Maybe this was done intentionally, as the rest of the film is anything but like this! It does raise a chuckle knowing what lies ahead! It’s not long until their cosy life is interrupted by a figure from Matrix’s’ past. It appears that all of his members from his old team are being murdered, and he is the last one left. Even with the warning, this doesn’t stop the villain, a ridiculously over the top, pantomime bad guy, Bennett from kidnapping Jenny, and blackmailing our hero to carry out an assassination mission for them. Matrix manages to escape the plane he is forced to board for his mission, and it’s a race against time to find his daughter before the plane arrives on the other side!

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Not the smartest of moves…….

So as mentioned earlier, this film is as ‘Arnold’ as you can get! This came out around the time he hit his box office prime, with successes such as The Running Man, Predator, Total Recall and of course, The Terminator. Commando is known for 2 things among its cult fan base. The one man army troupe and the one liner. So many one-liners!!

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You’re a funny guy Sully……….

The film is crammed full with memorable lines that fans still quote today! Where do you start? There’s the “Please don’t disturb my friend, he is dead tired’’ after nonchalantly snapping the neck of his guard on the plane. We can’t forget the infamous combo of “You’re a funny guy Sully, I like you, that’s why I’ll kill you last’’, followed later on with “Remember when I said I would kill you last? I lied” the deadpan delivery, with the fact he makes such remarks after killing someone is just comedic! And we cannot forget the final one-liner in the movie, after he inevitably wins at the end……..’’Let off some steam Bennett’, after casually impaling him with a pole in the boiler room! It’s all done tongue in cheek, so the lines never really ruin the movie, only adding to the spectacle!

Don’t be expecting any intricate story lines or stellar acting performances here! Cindy, our female accomplice for Matrix, is far too casual and mellow about being dragged into something as dangerous as this, and goes from ‘help, I’ve been kidnapped’ to ‘OK, I’ll help you take down a militia” rather too easily! Sully, the creepy & annoying henchmen is brilliantly irritating, and when you see his eventual demise, it’s great! As said, the acting is pretty much what you expect for an Arnold movie! In one scene, he crashes the car he is driving in pursuit of Sully into a tree. Literally right after the crash, he immediately checks on Cindy. There is literally no reaction from him to the crash at all! It’s so bad, it’s good! You would at least expect a brief moment of shock, but nope! Nothing here!

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The final 3rd of the movie is pretty much The Expendables, with one guy, though that guy is 1980s Schwarzenegger, so, more than enough firepower! In all reality, he wouldn’t even get past the first guards he encounters, but here, in Commando, he is taking an entire army, on his own, without a sweat! With any other actor, even back then, would seem improbable, but with Schwarzenegger, it feels perfect! This was his gimmick, a gimmick only he (and probably Stallone) could pull off flawlessly. There’s a video on Youtube that tallies up his kill count, and it’s defiantly worth a check! (102 kills, according to this!)

Nowadays, a film like this, would rarely succeed, though movies such as John Wick could compare well to this, one man, on a mission, kills EVERYONE! If you love a mindless action movie, with the star power of Arnold is his absolute peak then watch this! If you already have, watch it again! 😀 This is always one of those movies I could always go back to watching! I’ll be back, Bennett……………….

Episode 14 is out!

It’s a box office bonanza this episode! We look at two of the biggest grossing films of the year so far, Disney’s Beauty & The Beast has already broken the magical $1 billion mark, and Fast 8 is well on course to follow it. We also cross examine one of the most controversial movies of the year, Ghost In The Shell.

Fast 8 : Copy & Paste

Original Films’ pops up on screen during the opening credits, which raises a chuckle, considering the irony of producing a series which is pretty much the same every movie! We’ve now arrived at the 8th chapter of the highly successful ‘Fast’ universe, a film that is guaranteed to be a success from a box office perspective regardless of reviews, but how does it compare to the previous 3 movies in the rebooted series?

As the trailers have already revealed, the whole angle of this film is that ‘family man’ Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) has betrayed his team, and now working for a shady criminal syndicate. It’s down to his former team to pursue our rogue hero and bring him in, their greatest challenge yet.

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Due to the loss of Paul Walker, and the plotline removing Dom from the team, the film has to add a few more faces to our crew in order to hunt down their former team leader. This leads to Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) & Shaw (Jason Statham) who aren’t on the best of terms to say the least after Fast 7, having to team up and help hunt down Dom.  These two are by far the best parts of the film, when their not trying to beat each other to a pulp, their exchanging constant verbal putdowns!  The chemistry between the two is excellent, and hopefully we can see more of the two as more central figures in the future! Statham is clearly having a blast here, and the producers must have seen his hilarious performance in Spy, and let him loose with his comedic talents! Though the story really doesn’t go into the previous history between Shaw and our crew, he has killed one of their friends, and tried to kill another with a bomb, thought the team show initial resistance on working with the guy, their pretty much OK with it a few scenes later!

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The rest of the team seem like their suffering from series fatigue, and the lack of Brian (Paul Walker) definitely hurts the teams’ dynamics. The addition of a new character is a clear attempt at trying to replace him, but it’s a generic character with no real likable qualities. Members such as Tej (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) & Roman (Tyrese Gibson) are charming as always, and their interactions always raise have the audience laughing, but it feels like the same thing from past movies, with Roman constantly dropping one-liners and really adding nothing at all to the plot anymore, and it’s a real surprise he hasn’t died from all his misdemeanours that he causes.. Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) who is supposed to be one of the top hackers in the world, barely features, and spends most of the movie looking clueless; an odd decision considering the main villain of the movie is a hacker! You would think she would take centre stage in a situation like this, not play second fiddle to tech guy Tej! Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) really offers nothing here, apart from being able to take a level of physical punishment that she really shouldn’t be able too! Her story arc had finished a while ago, and really should be dropped when Fast 9 comes around.

Then again, the core of this movie isn’t the characters, but the action! This is where it delivers the outrageous stunts that’s the series is well known for! The climax of the movie is a totally stupid showdown vs a nuclear submarine, on ice! Pretty much Die Another Day on a much more insane level!  Only the Fast franchise could make something like that look believable!  The set piece in Manhattan is also wonderfully done, and while it’s visually amazing to see hoards of cars being used as a stampede, it also taps into the fear of what can be hacked nowadays. You also have the sheer over the top street race in which Dom, in a car on fire, beating the fastest car in Cuba, but hey, we don’t expect anything less!

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The Prison break scene is thoroughly enjoyable, once again, with Hobbs & Shaw stealing the spotlight. As intense as the action is, is feels abit formulaic, and nowhere near as unique as scenes in Fast 7, such as the cars flying through skyscrapers in Dubai! The movie does all the things it does well in, comedy, action, a slick presentation and comic book characters, but really does not offer anything new at all.

Toretto is also ridiculously overpowered here, sure he has the main character shield, but he manages to escape every scenario and win every battle, he isn’t a soldier or a spy, his just a normal guy. This isn’t Vin Diesel playing Xander Cage, but Dom, a retired aging criminal. The film also doesn’t explain why these guys are the best to take down Dom, any half decent special ops team could do a better job, but we get to see an orange Lamborghini!

The editing of the movie is odd to say the least, there is one scene, where the crew are planning their mission, and appear to turn towards the camera in response to a door opening, and it then cuts to Cipher walking on her plane. For a moment you think Cipher has walked in on the team, before realising it was cutting to a totally different scene! It’s just something that stuck out to me!

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Unlike prior movies, Fast 8 does get very dark, especially with the scenes between Dom, and our cyber hacker antagonist, Cipher (Charlize Theron). These scenes seem very out of place though, in a movie which is pretty much ‘popcorn action’. Without going too much into spoilers, Cipher does well in showing why Dom turns, but at the same time, feels like a totally different movie. Theron is great as the ice cold, calculating villain, and is a stellar addition to the ever growing list of characters to the lore! The film also has a few cameos from faces from past movies, which is a wonderful fan service, and Helen Mirren is a riot as the mother of Shaw in the few scenes she appears in!

If you’re a fan of the franchise, this movie is another welcome addition to the juggernaut that this series has become. But it does feel like that there has to be some changes in the formula, especially with the main crew, if the films want to avoid getting stale. They would do well to move the spotlight off Vin Diesel and his inner conflicts, and more towards Hobbs & Shaw!

 

 

 

Review : Ghost In The Shell

The sour taste of Dragonball Evolution still lingers in the mouth of Anime fans, a frankly, horrible live action adaptation of the much loved show. Ghost in the Shell is the latest Hollywood attempt to bring anime to the big screen.

Based off the 1995 cyberpunk masterpiece, GITS is the story of Major (Scarlett Johansson), one of the first successful attempts at fusing the human brain with an entirely artificial body. Major works for Section 9, a public security firm, who work for the government. Our team is drawn into an investigation is which a hacker is targeting & murdering several member of Hanka Robotics. It’s a case that unveils the Major’s past and follows her internal struggles in identifying who she is.

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The film was never going to match the ’95 original in terms of complex themes and storyline, and it would have been foolish to try and even attempt that. In this version, things are tweaked here and there. We have a new villain, Kuze, our hacker, though he follows a similar arc to The Puppet Master from the original, his motivations are different.  Hanka Robotics, the company Kuze is targeting, are responsible for the creation of Major, also do not feature in the first film.

The movie is gorgeous to look at; the movie does a stellar job in capturing the neo-Tokyo (even though it’s never stated to be Tokyo!) feels. Every scene where we follow our heroes through the city is filled with vivid colour of neon lights, and the hustle of activity all over the streets. It’s also shot in a very stylish way, especially the opening scene with the geisha robots, overall, visually; it’s a very polished film.

But the looks can only get a movie so far, where the film stumbles is in the sheer simplicity of the movie, whereas the original left it to the audience to fill in the details, with subtle hints, here, the movie is very much dumbed-down to a straightforward narrative. It’s made clear from the opening few scenes the movie will be easy to follow, “your mind, or ghost, in now in a new body, a shell” explains Dr Ouelet (Juliette Binoche) to our hero. Just in case no one could figure out what the title meant, it’s all explained in the first scene! No need for the audience to put things together! The key scene regarding the Majors past is pretty obvious where it was all going, but the movie kept trying to remind us about the twist, as if the audience wouldn’t be able to figure it out.

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The movie has two antagonists, Kuze as mentioned already, and another, who simply turns out to be the typical ‘evil boss of a corporation’ villain. The film was never going to go into the intricate monologue at the end of the original, but it’s a shame that they replaced it with a carbon copy villain instead.

What fans can be pleased about, are the big screen representation of all the cast. As controversial as it was, Scarlett Johansson does perfectly fine in both looking like the Major, and being able to perform the various action set pieces. Batou, the wisecracking, burly partner of the Major played by Pilou Asbæk, is also another credible interpretation. His story may have gone abit off track, but physically he looks the part. One of the main criticisms of failures like Dragonball was the fact the actors looked very little like the characters they were playing. You have to give GITS some credit for sticking honourably to their source material. ‘Beat’ Takeshi Kitano also brings his unique charisma as Section 9 leader, Aramaki. It’s a shame Togusa, one of the other prominent characters from the series doesn’t get as much screen time, as his presence is quite an important factor to the identity crisis Major has, hopefully we may see more of him in the future.

The movie drops enough fan service to keep the hard core fans onside. You have to original shelling sequence at the start (it was a pity that the original haunting score from Kenji Kawai wasn’t used here, but it does feature at the end!), the Major building jumps with camouflage, the chase scene through the city backstreets, and the infamous spider tank scene. Its things like these that long term fans will appreciate.

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Regarding the controversy to cast Scarlett Johansson as the Major, amongst the entire whitewashing furore.  The decision was made purely down to financial reasons; the studio most likely wanted a huge name attached to the project, especially as its being marketed to the West. The Major here is never addressed as Motoko, her name in the anime/manga, and the movie at least gives an explanation to why she is Caucasian.  There are talented Japanese actresses over in Hollywood, such as Rinko Kikuchi, but lack the star power of Johansson.  Even people back in Japan were none to fussed, the film is being promoted over here, and the actress does bare resemblance to the role she’s playing.

Overall, the movie is pretty forgettable, although the film does have some very complex themes; it never delves deep enough to make it engaging. The plot develops into a run of the mill evil corporate CEO cliché, a trap it could have avoided, if it chose to stay with the original villain throughout.  If you’re a fan, you will enjoy the fan service, and the simple fact they didn’t butcher the movie, as previous films have suffered. If you follow GITS, you’ll be more likely to remember it than someone who isn’t a fan.

If you truly want to see GITS as it should, I would highly recommend you watch the 1995 classic, but the 2017 cut does at least make a respectable effort, and introduces these characters over to a new audience.

Power Rangers, Surprisingly Good!

When the trailers first dropped for the rebooted Power Rangers movie, it’s fair to say the reception was rather tepid. Was a new Power Rangers movie really needed? Even if it was, is a dark, gritty remake the best route to go down? The new 2017 Power Rangers hopes to be the start of a new series of movies, but if that is to work, the first film has to set the right tone off the bat.

Power Rangers was a large part of me growing up, Power Rangers was absolutely massive back in the 90s, so the nostalgia factor is pretty huge here! The original was well known for it’s over the top cheesiness and fight scenes, here, the movie gets a palette swap, gone are the endless backflips and silly sound effects, in come a team of dysfunctional teens, who have to come to terms with their new found destiny.

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For those not in the know, Power Rangers follows the adventure of 5 teens, who come across a mysterious power, which enables them, to morph into the Power Rangers suits and save the world. A pretty formulaic Saturday morning show plot! In this version, we still have the same 5 rangers returning. We have Jason the Red Ranger, and the leader of the team. He is once again by Kimberly (Pink), Billy (Blue), Zack (Black) & Trini (Yellow). Though it’s not all sunshine in this version of Angel Grove, each our of heroes all suffer from their own personal conflicts.

The plot follows our heroes trying to prevent a revived Rita Repulsa, from uncovering the hidden Zeo crystal buried under Angel Grove. Elizabeth Banks is clearly having a blast playing the green clad villain! Bringing a fine balance between creepy and over the top dramatics! Bryan Cranston takes up the role of Zordan, bringing his intensity to the weary mentor of the rangers. His robotic assistant Alpha also returns, voiced by comedian Bill Hader, who is slightly more annoying than he is quirky! The new redesigned Alpha just doesn’t feel as good as the original model.

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By far the most positive aspect of the movie is the characters themselves. The first two acts of the movie feature very little Ranger action, and focuses on the teens themselves trying to get their acts together and overcome their personal demons. Jason has to deal with losing his promising sporting career, Billy has to cope with his autism, Kimberly has to suffer the consequences of bullying, whereas both Zack & Trini both have family issues back in their homes.  These are no way the best candidates for being a hero, but it’s their camaraderie that helps us feel for their progression. The entire cast do a strong job representing their character, but the stand out has to be RJ Cyler as the Blue Ranger, whose sheer enthusiasm in their situation has you laughing along with him and supporting our Blue Ranger to become a superhero he wants to become!!

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But to be honest, we’re mostly here for the Morphing,  Zords and the Mecha action! The final act is where that all takes place, the action is pretty high octane, and the Zords don’t look overtly tacky, though the final Megazord transformation could have had a bit more of an epic feel, as in the show. It kind of, just happens in a hole. The original Power Rangers theme is used briefly in one scene, and it works wonders on that nostalgia vibe!! It’s a pity the action scenes take a back seat in the movie, as the new look armor makes the fighting looks so much more realistic, and less cartoon like! It would be hard to make the retro spandex outfits fit in here look as intimidating! It also makes sense how this armour would enhance their fighting abilities.

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Films such as Transformers unashamedly plug various products in their movies,  this movie is also guilty of such product placement. Though it’s so well incorporated into the movie, it brings out loads of laughs, and reminds us that Power Rangers isn’t all grim and moody! One of the finer examples of commercials within a movie!

If movie goers are expecting a throwback to the originals, you’ll be left not impressed! What this film does is set up a solid foundation for any future releases, the characters are well developed enough, for fans to care about, and the fact the film hasn’t crashed and burned at the Box Office is a promising sign., and keep an eye out for some cameos for all you old skool fans! It may not be in the same league as any of the top end Marvel superhero movies.  Now that the characters have been set up, hopefully we see far more action in subsequent releases. It’s a film far more layered than you would think, with a cast that is endearing, hopefully they manage to make a sequel so we can see where they take this saga.

Life Thrills!

Life, follows a star studded cast, as a group of astronauts on the International Space Station. who happen to bring on a surprise visitor, who happens to be a lot more sinister than first presumed!

The crew on the ISS manage to recover a capsule, containing various samples from a recent Martian mission. Amongst all the specimen of rocks is one curious sample, it turns out that the crew have managed to successfully find life on Mars! With the news relayed back to Earth, they honour the new organism with the name Calvin, which seems innocent enough, before Calvin wakes up from his slumber!

 

On board, we have Dr Miranda North (Ferguson) & Dr David Jordan (Gyllenhaal) as the medical officers of the station, and also the main  characters the movie follows. Also on the team is Adams (Reynolds) the ISS pilot, Derry (Bakare) the stations British biologist. Murakami, the teams Japanese engineer and Golovkina, the Russian commander. It’s only fair the International Space Station has an International cast!

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It’s our biologist that develops a close affinity with Calvin, and it’s his curiosity that ultimately leads our Martian friend on its warpath! After some mild experiments to monitor the growth of Calvin, it’s the electrical stimulation that sets off its survival instincts, and from that point on, the movie becomes an intense thriller!

Calvin is most certainly the highlight of this well-made space chiller, as the film progresses, it gets more and more advanced, not just physically, but also its intelligence. Our astronauts have to get more tactical against its threat, as the crew gradually starts to get taken out. Speaking of the deaths, the film is pretty graphic at times, as our alien fiend starts absorbing its prey in various gory methods. It does feel a bit over the top at times, but it does well in showing how weak our crew is, up against this relentless threat. Could there be a greater fear than drowning…in Space?!

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As with most recent films set in Space, such as Interstellar, Gravity & The Martian, Life is incredibly beautiful,  the shots of Earth, the Sun, and various other scene out of the station are gorgeous, and makes the whole movie look so much more polished. If the CGI looks bad in a Space movie, it would have a hugely negative effect on the whole project.

It’s clear that the film takes a lot of inspiration from Alien, which is no way a bad thing! Daniel Espinosa directs a wonderfully eerie set piece. Where the movie excels, is in the stalking aspects of the film. As Calvin slips away, all our crew can hear is the various thuds as our predator crawls around the metallic interiors of the station. This is extremely well executed when Calvin is in its earlier phases, as its smaller body allows it to sneak around in all manner of places, and jumping out from the smallest of gaps! As it grows, it does get a bit more comical, as it grows a face and limbs, along with a cheesy ‘monster vision’ scene.

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So how do our crew preform here? Reynolds is obviously the most charismatic, with his jovial nature and comic relief. Upcoming British actor Ariyon Bakare is great as the Scientist who develops an almost family like affinity to his new discovery, his character also has a disability which plays well into the story-line.  Our two medical officers don’t’ really have much to shout about. Gyllenhaal’s character hates life back on Earth, and prefers the solitude of Space, though they don’t really go into too much detail on why this really is. His pretty much grumpy throughout the movie, where a bit more emotion would have been better, considering the situation they found themselves in. Rebecca Ferguson character is fairly bland, and probably shouldn’t have been the main focus of the film, her role in Rogue Nation was far superior.

As a whole, the movie succeeds in what it attempts to do, Calvin steals the show wherever it appears, the sheer terror the crew faces every time they are confronted with it is well captured. The nature of the deaths also makes the audience feel nervous and uncomfortable, which only helps build the suspense. The dull nature of of main protagonists does hold back the movie from being a truly memorable, and the utterly predictable twist at the end is so expectant, it’s almost funny when it happens! Life isn’t the perfect space thriller,  but it’s definitely worth checking out if you love Space movies, especially ones containing savage aliens on board!

Kong : Slightly Dull Island

With the release of Godzilla in 2014, the Monsterverse was created; with the concept of fellow monster alumni such as King Kong getting involved in future crossovers. With that idea in mind, we have Kong: Skull Island hitting the screens, setting up the imminent showdown between the two!

Peter Jackson’s King Kong was the last major appearance of Kong on the silver screen, it was a 3 hour epic, which retold the story were all familiar with Kong. Skull Island goes in a different direction, a far more action orientated movie. Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs an adrenaline pumped version, filled with guns, military and brutal deaths! It’s a smart way to go, rather than rehashing the same story about taking Kong back to NYC for his journey up the Empire State!

 

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“We’re going to need a bigger helicopter………”

So Skull Island takes place soon after the Vietnam War, and the film plays various homages to that period of time. The helicopters, the jungle shots, the sunsets! All the clichés! Bill Randa (Goodman) leads an expedition team to the mysterious Skull Island, which he believes is hiding a dark secret. Joining him on the mission is Conrad (Hiddlestone), former British military and survival expert, Lt Packard (Jackson), a frustrated US army leader, and Weaver (Larson), a war photographer & pacifist.

 

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“If it bleeds……..we can kill it”

It doesn’t take long for the film to get into top gear. Once were done with the obligatory introductions, the mission is pretty much is doomed before it barely begins! Unlike King Kong, there isn’t much build up or suspense; it’s straight off the bat! Kong makes his mark right away, swatting away helicopters like nothing, and pretty much laying waste to half the team! This leads to our group of survivors attempting to reach the rescue point, and make it off this monstrosity of an island.

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The monsters make up all the great parts of the film! Obviously our main gorilla, Kong steals the show whenever he pops up, but the island is crawling with all sorts of wonders. The bamboo spider sets up one of the more memorable scenes in the movie. You also have ancient pterodactyls, reigning terror upon our desperate survivors.  Though these monsters are not exactly evil, more a case of humans wondering into their territory, it’s the threatening Skull Crawlers, which provide the real threat, a race of ravenous beasts that were subdued by Kong, are now free to wreak havoc.

 

It’s the scenes with the human characters where the film starts to stumble. They frankly, are just not that interesting. Hiddleston may have the charisma, but his role is something any actor could pull off. He doesn’t really do much, and apparently, he has expert samurai sword skills! Sure he walks around all confident and talks the talk, but the film never really shows us why he was worth bringing into the mission. Brie Larson is just there. As a war photographer, you think she would be used to the horrors, and still be able to take the pictures she was there to take. Any photographer on somewhere like Skull Island would be taking photos non-stop, to the point of annoyance!

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The characters worth screen time would be the delirious Lt Packard, who is so driven by the deaths of his men; he vows to take down Kong, regardless of the consequences. Even though he should be aware, Kong was just defending his island, the Lt. is driven to the edge, and he does bring some degree of motivation to the script. He is more than aware he may not survive confronting Kong, by he just doesn’t care! The other bright spark is Marlow (John C Reiily), a lone survivor who crash landed back in WW2, and has gone slightly crazy to say the least! Though his character, as fun as it is, feels very much out of place here, and would have fit better if the film followed another tone. He is pretty much just the exposition guy, just there to fill in all the plot details.

 

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”Oh no, one of our colleagues got ripped apart……OK moving on…….”

Most of the cast lack any real emotion, which really hurts the movie. One scene sees a survivor get torn to shreds, limbs being ripped off. After the initial shock, the characters just continue to move on, just brushing off what they just saw. It would take more than just ‘’oh his gone now’’ for anyone to accept what they just saw, especially for any of the non-military characters! During the confrontation in the graveyard, toxic fumes fill up the area, yet the characters barely seem affected by it, apart from some coughing! There also is an abundance of characters that really aren’t needed, such as Lin (Jing Tian), who seems to have been solely added for the Chinese market, and contributes pretty much nothing, which is a shame.

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But let’s be honest, we’re here to see the monsters, the final showdown between Kong and the lead Skull Crawler is a joy. The battles between our survivors and the beasts are thrilling. The graveyard scene is pure popcorn fodder. It is stupidly over-dramatic, but that’s the vibe this film wants to set. If the film focused a lot less of the dull characters, and more on the dangers of what lurks on the island, the film would be up there with the likes of Pacific Rim, an over the top monster movie. One thing Pacific Rim had going, was some character motivation and development. If Skull Island wanted to focus more of the humans, they should have been written to be far more interesting, as opposed to the bland persona that were created. The film though, does enough to set up Kong as a valiant hero, and his inevitable duel with Godzilla should be a thrill to see!

 

Logan Reigns Supreme

 

There are some roles which are so perfect for an actor; they become synonymous with that persona. Think Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, or Christopher Reeve as Superman. But there is no role as closely associated with actor & role than Hugh Jackman and Wolverine. Downey Jr. has been playing Stark for 9 years; Jackman has been reprising his role for 17 years! Reeve appeared as the Man of Steel on 4 occasions, for Jackman, he has 9 appearances under his belt. In what will most likely be his last act as Weapon X, he has saved the best, for last, as Logan hits the screens this month.

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The Wolverine trilogy hasn’t exactly been anything special. Origins was panned by critics and fans alike. The second movie The Wolverine was a far better movie, but the final act pretty much ruined what was a decent film. Logan though, finally gives our hero the movie he deserves, a dark, gritty and violent interpretation. Following on from the success of the Rated R mercenary, Deadpool. Logan also embraces the classification, and it works like a charm! This movie works more in the same vibe as Jessica Jones & Daredevil, than it does with the mainstream MCU movies.

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 Hugh Jackman stars as Logan/Wolverine in LOGAN. Photo Credit: Ben Rothstein.

The X-Men franchise is mighty complicated; the consequence of Days of Future Past resulted in the possibility of split timelines, so it can be hard to keep up with what’s occurring.  In this timeline, Logan (Jackman) has retreated over the Mexican border, caring for an elderly and senile Charles Xavier (Stewert), with the help of one of the last remaining mutants, Caliban (Merchant).  It’s the year 2029, and the numbers of mutants are down to near extinction, and the X-Men are all dead, barring our rugged anti-hero. A deteriorating Xavier now suffers seizures which cause mass chaos; Logan now runs errands to save up enough money to live out their lives in peace, on a luxury yacht, out in the isolation of the ocean. These plans are thrown out the window after the sudden appearance of Laura (Keen), a young mutant possessing a familiar set of abilities.

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The X-Men franchise has always been a bit timid when it comes to the violence on display, especially with a character like Logan. This film pretty much off the bat sets the tone for the movie, it’s violent, it’s bloody, and this is most certainly not a movie for the kids, maybe even some teens! Limbs go flying off; even the odd head gets decapitated. Though the violence isn’t done for the sake of the R rating, this is how Wolverine should be, considering his main weapons are a set of razor sharp claws! The fighting here is brutal, Logan isn’t in his peak, this isn’t the cocky, young Wolverine from X-2, and this is a beaten down, battle weary, alcoholic Logan. His healing factor isn’t working as efficiently as it used to, and his adamantium skeleton in having an adverse effect on his body. This gives Logan a far more vulnerable character, being invincible in his previous movies took away that drama, as you knew he would pretty much survive anything thrown at him. His mental and physical vulnerabilities gives us a far for interesting character to follow.

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The film’s 3 acts are pretty distinctive. The opening and closing act is all out action, swearing and gore. It’s the middle act where the film really develops its own personality. The focus of this film is on family. Logan is down to his last connection, Xavier. Everyone else is dead. Xavier isn’t the polished, well-spoken mastermind of previous films, he is sick and delirious. The father-son interactions between the two are insightful and beautiful. Both actors really impressing with their outstanding acting abilities. Logan also gets to develop a father-daughter bond that he never got to experience, with the introduction of Laura/X-23 into the fold. As the film progresses, their relationship blossoms, and finally gives Logan a true reason to live. That aside, they both make a kickass combination when they team up to attack!

Director James Mangold takes his inspiration from the Old Man Logan comic books, and manages to interpret it well onto the big screen, Mangold was in charge of The Wolverine too, whereas The Wolverine was a warm up, he most certainly goes the whole distance in Logan. Violence is a key element of the Wolverine character, and it’s implemented well here. The final scenes involving a pumped up Wolverine serves as a nice finale to his rage fueled chronicles, and one last time to see Jackson go all out attack!

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Where the film does drop a bit is in the predictability, all the major plot lines are pretty straight forward, and when they do happen, it’s as expected. It also leaves a few things open. Such as where is Magneto is all of this? Surely his too powerful to simply die of like the other X-Men, and with his great friend in such dire straits, it wouldn’t be a surprise to have him involved somehow. But I suppose they wanted to keep the movie all about the central 3, and it doesn’t really hurt the movie much, but it does make you wonder! Also, the main villains (Dr Zander Rice & Pierce), never provide much of a threat; essentially they are just there to give the plot some direction. The middle act can feel a bit dialogue intense, the action slows down to a walking pace, and it does add on a bit of filler on the already extended 2hr 20 running time.

Is it the best superhero movie ever? As some are claiming it to be? Well personally the film is abit to miserable for a superhero movie, personally I would put The Winter Soldier above it, but that’s just my opinion. It’s still a majestic piece of art, and you’ll for sure feel emotional at times, and valiant send off for this literation of Wolverine.

 

 

A Cure for Wellness, Something New!

Finding an original film nowadays can be quite a challenge, it seems most big releases are either a sequel or remake! A Cure for Wellness aims to be a fresh new spin on the horror genre.

Lockhart (Dane DeHaan) is your typical high rolling Wall Street banker, who has earned himself a place at the top table at his firm. His employers uncover the underhanded methods he was using to close his high profile cases, which if reported to the SEC, will most certainly lead him on the path to prison. But there is a way out, if he can retrieve the company’s CEO, Pembroke, from a retreat in Switzerland, they can pin the blame on him. Though Lockhart may not be clean,  his employers realise the potential for more money to be made, and in the process, get rid of the CEO who they believe has lost his mind.

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It’s at the Swiss retreat, where Lockhart suffers an accident, waking up to find himself with a broken leg, and having been admitted to the facility. The trailer for the movie gave off a definite Shutter Island vibe, and that can only be a good thing! The Spa retreat at the centre of the movie’s plot is magnificently eerie. From all the endless rooms, corridors and gardens, the Spa is a great setting for this film. It’s here where our protagonist encounters Dr Volmer (Jason Isaacs), the director of the Spa, and a mysterious young girl, Hannah (Mia Goth) who spends her time wondering the facility grounds.

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The film does wonders for Swiss tourism! As this has to be one of the most beautiful looking films I’ve seen. The castle is a spectacle, and some of the visuals that are obtained with the stunning Alpine backdrop is divine. One scene is which Lockhart & Hannah are talking by a water fountain, with the Alps reflecting off the waters surface is one of the many wonderfully shot scenes spread throughout. The cinematography here is outstanding. Director Gore Verbinski has executed a visual treat for movie goers!

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The first two acts of the movie are pretty well done, DeHaan does a fine job as the unlikable money hungry executive,  though he does a few things out of character during the film. Would someone as meticulous as him, just randomly sign a document without reading it through? As impatient as he may have been, it seemed strange to just sign something off, though I suppose, plot development! The entire Spa has a creepy vibe to it, all the patients here, seem to be more than happy to be here, a bit too happy! and its not long before Lockhart eventually discovers the hidden secrets behind everything. The movie does good to avoid relying on too many jump scares, preferring to slowly build up to the reveals, though at times, it feels like it’s dragging on. The film is pretty graphic, warranting it the 18 certificate. If your not a fan of the dentist chair, you may want to look away during one specific scene!

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It’s at the end, where the film totally goes off the rails, and almost feels like a parody. Whereas the everything before the finale, was a wonderfully shot, enticing horror. The inevitable plot twist, is the twist that anyone paying any attention during the film would have called. The fact this is pretty much spoiled to us in a scene earlier on in the film makes it just that much more annoying.It’s disappointing that there wasn’t a swerve, and they went with what everyone thought they were going to go with this. From a macabre mystery, the film turns into an all out action finale, including the final showdown in the backdrop of flames! It feels very much out of place in a movie which spent so much time building things up.

Speaking of time, Wellness is full of filler. A run time of over 2 hr is certainly excessive, and the film could have been cut by 30 minutes easily. One scene spends about 5 minutes, in which Lockhart stumbles into a dark room and discovers what resides in there. There’s building suspense, but then there are scenes that could have easily been reduced significantly.

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The ending aside, Wellness is still one of the better movies out this year, and you have to give the director credit for trying something new and original. Personally, the final act of the movie did taint it somewhat, but that’s all down to personal opinion. If your looking for something different to watch, and don’t mind being freaked out, by all means, give this a try!

 

 

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