SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

Andy Serkis, book haul, books, comic books, currently reading, Dr Who, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Marvel, Netflix, recently watched, Spider-Man

So my week off work is over and I was back at work yesterday. It’s safe to say I ached everywhere when I got home yesterday and couldn’t face anything. Which, actually, also sums up my week off. Having planned to get some shit done in terms of reading, I actually didn’t get much done. I carried on in my attempt to reread Harry Potter but that was the extent. Turns out, after weeks of not getting enough sleep, your body reacts to a holiday by sleeping a lot. I’m not complaining I just wish I’d done more. Still, I managed to see some friends and do some fun stuff. So I shouldn’t really complain.
Currently Reading

  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
The closes I came to reading this week was when I started the second book in the Harry Potter series. I didn’t get too far. I don’t even think we’ve reached the burrow yet. However, this won’t take a long time to finish so I’m not exactly worried about it.

  • The 7th Fucntion of Language by Laurent Binet
Not read any of this in weeks but I’m going to start again tonight. We’ll get there. I promise you, the length of time it’s taking me to read this is no reflection on the book itself because it’s been impeccable so far. I’m just fucking useless at the moment.

Recently Purchased
  • The Answers by Catherine Lacey
I’m meant to be on a book buying ban at the moment but this book, that is on my ‘Most Anticipated Fiction of 2017’ list, proved too much to resist. I’m really looking forward to it. It feels like it might be a lighter read than my current book, The 7th Function of Language. It sounds like it has the potential go further down the chick-lit road than I’d usually like but I’ll keep my mind open.


Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Dr Who, Various Marvel Films
I rewatched the anniversary episode of Dr Who recently and I still cry every single time. It’s the perfect episode and each other version of the Doctor is perfect in his own way. It is a great celebration of the show and really changed the whole tone of the show. After spending loads of time since it came back brooding, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi were free to have a bit more fun in the role after this. A game changer. Then I spent my week off watching all of the newly added Marvel films to Netflix UK. I’d seen them all before but it’s always nice to go back.
  • Spider-Man: Homecoming
I managed to get to the cinema and see this the day it was released in the UK. It’s safe to say that I have lots of feelings. See you Tuesday.

  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes
This was one when I got home from work and, lacking the energy to do anything more productive, I lay in bed watching it. It’s the first time I’ve seen it since the first time and it was incredible. Andy Serkis and co are amazing as the Apes. The story is fantastic and it was a really good start to this story. It’s only got me more excited about the third film. I was planning on linking to my own review of the film or it’s sequel but it turns out I failed to do a post on either. I guess I need to rectify that soon.

TOP 10 WEN-SDAY – RANKING MCU MOVIES

Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, comic book, comic books, Edward Norton, list, Mark Ruffalo, Marvel, Paul Rudd, Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston

Tomorrow I’m watching Spider-Man: Homecoming and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve enjoyed the majority of Spider-Man films that have been released, probably only really excluding Toby Maguire’s third outing, but none of them have really done fantastic things. I think Andrew Garfield was perfectly cast but the stories just didn’t cut it. Toby Maguire was fine for the time and his films are still astonishing in terms of that era. However, his portrayal of Peter Parker just seems flat nowadays. With this film being the third time a new actor has taken up the spidey suit in 15 years, it’s starting to feel like every young-ish actor will eventually get the chance to play him. Still, I have high hopes for Tom Holland. His brief appearance in Civil War was an absolute treat within all of the heavy shit going on and proved that a solo film could be full of geeky fun. To get myself in the mood for watching this new film I spent today watching some past Marvel films: namely Civil War and Ant-Man. Both were great, obviously, but it got me thinking about my ranking of the films in the MCU. It’s something I’ve tried to avoid doing because it’s such a changeable thing. However, with another Top 10 Wen-sday upon us, I decided it was time to give it a go. Expect this to have changed by tomorrow.
Fifteen: Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 was the first of man disappointing MCU sequels and it is still the worst of the bunch. I understand that it had a lot to live up to because Iron Man was the film that gave the MCU life. Still, this is just a lacklustre film. It is only saved thanks to Robert Downey Jr’s charm. The film offers us two underwhelming villains (wasting the talents of the wonderful Sam Rockwell) and spends too much time showboating to offer anything real. It’s just dreadful.

Fourteen: Thor the Dark World

I think I always look favourably on The Dark World because it contains Tom Hiddleston’s face. Ever since his brief romance with Taylor Swift I’ve kind of gone off the guy. I know it’s fickle but how can I be a massive fan of someone who made that choice? Anyway, as such I now no longer see all of his films through rose-tinted glasses and can see how awful this film really was. The dark elves are not fleshed out in the slightest and Thor becomes a supporting character in his own film. This was a let down from start to finish.

Thirteen: The Incredible Hulk

Before Mark Ruffalo came along I was more than happy to have an Edward Norton shaped Hulk. I mean, yes, you couldn’t have got much worse than Eric Bana (who I assume was only hired because of his name) but Norton brought depth to the character of Bruce Banner. He wanted to explore the pain and suffering that lay behind the huge green rage monsters and it was a welcome change. The problem that this film really faced was that it’s just not going to be easy to make a solo Hulk film. This is something that has become more apparent as time went on but, clearly, having a main character who is silent and ragey most of the time just isn’t a workable formula.

Twelve: Avengers: Age of Ultron

I so wanted to love Age of Ultron. It had everything: Avengers had set us up with a great team full of banter; we were going to see Vision, Scarlett Witch and Quicksilver; and it had James Spader as the voice of Ultron. How could it go wrong? Well, apparently quite easily. Age of Ultron was exciting, maybe, but it was a huge mess of a film. The narrative was all over the place and it was basically just a Michael Bay-esque feast of explosion porn. With every viewing this film pains me more. Not just for how bad it is but for how much it let me down.

Eleven: Captain America

I realise that Captain America is a much better film than I give it credit for but, personally, I just didn’t love this film. I admit that I liked it much better on my second viewing for my TBT post but I still find it difficult to get too excited about Steve’s first outing. Hayley Atwell is amazing and there are some great moments but it all feels a bit rushed. Considering what followed in Steve’s solo outings, this film just doesn’t quite cut it.

Ten: Thor

As with above, this is primarily on personal taste and I’m sure most people would have this film higher up. I get it. Thor isn’t the typical Marvel film but I adore it. Kenneth Branagh may not be the most obvious choice to direct a comic book movie but I loved what he did with Thor. He turned it into a Shakespeare play and I think it worked. He was on firmer ground and Tom Hiddleston excelled at playing Loki as though he was Edmund in King Lear. It’s not perfect and there are some incredibly dodgy moments but Thor always makes me feel full of joy. I don’t care if I’m the only one.

Nine: Iron Man 3

I kind of wanted to put Iron Man 3 higher up the list because of how badly it treated The Mandarin character. That would have been petty though because, all in all, this is a pretty good film. Shane Black did a great job co-writing the script and directing the whole thing. It’s funny, exciting and dramatic. A huge improvement on the second film in the series. Black and Robert Downey Jr. have a great working relationship and Tony Stark is at his best. There were a few moments I could have done without but, for the most part, this was a winner.

Eight: Ant Man

It might just be because I’ve only just finished watching this film but Ant Man is much better than people give it credit. Paul Rudd is fantastic in the role of Scott Lang and there is plenty of fun to be had. It takes a character that nobody really wanted a film about but shows just how good of a decision it was. Yes, I still wish Edgar Wright had directed the story that he had wanted but this definitely showed the potential of the more random Marvel characters.

 Seven: Iron Man

When Iron Man came out way, way back in 2008 there wasn’t an MCU and Robert Downey Jr. was that drug addict from Ally McBeal. This film changed everything for the better. Downey Jr. became a household name and the MCU kicked off in style. This was a brash and exciting film that showed comic book movies could be a spectacle and also a really good film. As important as this film may be in terms of historical importance, it has to be said that it has been overshadowed by future releases. It’s still a great film but there are now better ones out there.

Six: Dr Strange

I can’t say that I was exactly overjoyed to hear that Dr Strange was coming to the big screen because I didn’t know enough about the character. Then I heard the immortal words: Benedict Cumberbatch. I will freely admit that my interest in the film was mostly linked to the face of this great actor but I think that’s reason enough to watch it. There are some fantastic moments in this film and breathtaking sequences where the laws of physics are just ripped to pieces. It’s a visual feast but I wanted this to be better. Dr Strange feels as though it wasn’t give the freedom to be everything it could be and was forced to fit into a Marvel template to keep everyone happy. I hope future films are given more of a chance.

Five: Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The second Guardians film was a great continuation of the series but it made the same mistake that most sequels tend to do. It wanted to make thing bigger and better. Yes, this still has the same funny and relaxed feeling that the first one did but there was something confused about it. The effects were too big and the fights too confusing. However, this was an emotionally charged film that finally added some consequences to the MCU. I adored this film but I wish it had been slicker.

Four: Captain America: Civil War

Again, it might be because I watched this today but Civil War is a fantastic film. It is the film that Avengers 2 wishes it could have been. Watching this film makes me truly sad that the Russo brothers weren’t allowed to direct Age of Ultron because it would have been a massive improvement. Yes, it still runs into the same problems as Ultron has because it deals with so many characters. Yes, the narrative isn’t exactly wonderful considering the comic book story it comes from. And, yes, the villain’s plan doesn’t exactly make sense when you think about it too much. However, this has some of everything. It had the fun and banter of The Avengers, the darkness of Winter Soldier, and the emotional conflict that has followed Steve through all of his films. It could have been better but it was pretty damn good.

Three: The Avengers

This was the film that nobody thought would be possible; something that gathered together every big name in the MCU up until that point and made them work together. With that many egos in one room, how was anyone going to be able to come up with a decent story. Thankfully, somebody agreed to let the legendary Joss Whedon have a crack and he managed to make it work. This was a funny, clever and exciting film. It knew what it was and it worked with it’s problems not against them. It gave us more of Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, which cemented him as best villain in the MCU, and gave us our first glimpse at Thanos. As with all Marvel films, the evil minions could have been better and it could have been a bit slicker but this is still one of the greatest film the MCU has produced.

Two: Guardians of the Galaxy

The best thing about Guardians was that it was such a breath of fresh air. It came after Thor: The Dark World and Winter Soldier had given us a supremely grim and dark set of Marvel films. It seemed to be following the Batman trend that dark and gritty was better when it came to superhero films. Guardians was always going to be something of an underdog because the source material wasn’t as well known to the general movie going public at the time. So it decided it wasn’t going to take itself too seriously and, boy, are we glad. This was the first comic book movie in such a long time to have a real sense of humour about itself. Director James Gunn managed to create something so full of joy that was also exciting enough for comic fans. This had it all.

One: Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I know a lot of people would put Guardians as their number one because it’s so watchable. I agree that it’s great but, in my heart, I know that Marvel as never been better than in Winter Soldier. Of course, it isn’t as fun or light-hearted but it’s really well crafted and it totally changed the landscape of Marvel’s future. It ramped up the emotional side thanks to Steve and Bucky’s friendship and it gave us the delightful Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson. It may have followed the Marvel staple of having a huge object fall to Earth in it’s finale but this film was so close to perfection. It deserves the top spot.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, comic books, currently reading, Emma Watson, Harry Potter, J K Rowling, Marvel, Netflix, recently watched, Tom Hanks

So did everyone enjoy Harry Potter Week? I’m not sure I quite lived up to the quality of my previous Harry Potter rants (i.e. my post about what a creep Snape is, which I’m sure is the most accurate thing I’ll ever write) but I got a lot of things off my chest at least. Still, it was nice revisiting the series and reminding myself how much it meant to me. I think there are parts of the Harry Potter fandom that make it seem as though there is only one way to appreciate the series so I always felt like I wasn’t a real fan any more. Just because I don’t reread the books every few months or feel like they’re the best books ever written shouldn’t mean I can’t consider myself a fan. I think that’s a problem that is creeping into fandoms as a whole. It’s far too competitive and can be quite cruel. Nobody appreciates anything in the same way and that’s something to be celebrated. You can’t win being a fan of something. Why try? Just because you spend more or talk about something more doesn’t make you love it more. It’s a ridiculous notion. Anyway, before this turns into another rant I’d better get on with the rundown.

Just Finished

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling
Finished rereading this in record time obviously. I mean I knew the story and it’s a book for little children. It’s been a while since I reread the whole book and, whilst I maintain that it’s still badly written, it still brought back the familiar joy that I got when I first read it. Guess I’m not as old and cynical as I like to think.

Finished listening to this finally. Probably going to discuss it further on Tuesday. So, hold onto your butts.
  • Slice of Life by Kurt Vonnegut (Kindle Edition)
A weird but interesting little short story I read after signing up to a free trial of Kindle Unlimited. Not one of the best Vonnegut tales you’ll ever read but still creepy and pretty cool. I’d recommend as a light quick read but don’t get too excited. 
  • Jessica Jones: Alias (Vol.1 and 2) by Brian Bendis (Kindle Edition)
Some more freebies thanks to Kindle Unlimited. I’ve been meaning to read these for years but never got round to it. I really enjoyed it but I will say that reading comic books on your Kindle is a most unpleasant experience. At least it was on my old Paperwhite. Maybe I need to upgrade?

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2: Angela by Brian Bendis (Kindle Edition)
Another Kindle Unlimited. I’ve had the first volume of this run of Guardians for a while now and have always been interested in reading the 2nd. Angela is one my favourite characters these days but I’ve only really read her solo series and Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 that feature her. I’m looking for any chance to get to know her better. 

Recently Purchased

I think I’ve finally done it. I think I’ve finally got through a week without buying a new book. I’m amazed at myself.

Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Comedy Bang Bang, Top of the Lake,
Started watching Comedy Bang Bang randomly the other day and I love it. It’s so fucking weird but definitely my sense of humour. I’m very wary that I’m coming to the end of the episodes on Netflix so don’t want to rush them too much. The other day a colleague of mine suggested that I watch Top of the Lake and, as apparently I have no self-will anymore, I went home and immediately started watching it. It’s really good so far and has a great cast. I love Elisabeth Moss and Peter Mullan anyway so it’s a treat to see them in this.
I tried to read Dave Eggers’ novel The Circle a while ago but I couldn’t finish it. I just got bored and kind of confused. So I wasn’t exactly thrilled by the news it was going to become a film and that was before Emma Watson was cast in the main role. It popped up on Netflix the other night so I thought I’d give it a go. Boy, I wish I hadn’t. I might try and do a quick review of it some time this week so watch this space.

TBT – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (20

Chris Evans, comic book, comic books, films, fuck yeah, Marvel, reviews, Scarlett Johansson, TBT

After seeing Wonder Woman last week I claimed it was my favourite DC movie so far. It definitely is but, considering that it’s only the 4th, that isn’t really saying much. It’s not like the mind fuck of trying to work out which is the best Marvel movie. Most of the time my favourite will be whichever was the last film I saw but that’s only because my attention span is the same as a bloody goldfish. It also comes down to what you consider important for making a good film. I mean, a well-made film isn’t necessarily going to automatically entertain you the most. And, likewise, a super fun film isn’t necessarily going to be good. In a job interview a few years ago, whilst discussing this blog, I was asked what my favourite film was. Now, this is a terrible question to ask anyway but in an already stressed environment I almost collapsed. I ended up by garbling an answer like “I know it should be something classic like Citizen Kane but it’s probably more like Space Jam.” It’s a cop out but I think it raises a good point. The films that regularly grace the top of ‘the best films ever made’ lists aren’t necessarily the ones that you watch about 7 times a year. So do I chose something like Thor that I know isn’t the greatest but is so much fun to watch? Or do actually pick the greatest film in the franchise? Well, it’s been a while since I’ve seen that one so it’s probably time I revisited it. Oh, and fancy that, it happens to be Thursday too.

Oh what a difference a film makes. Before I saw Winter Solider I had very little interest in both Steve Rogers and Chris Evans. Now, he’s one of my favourite heroes in the MCU and my love of Chris Evans is threatening to overthrow my love of Chris Pratt. Hemsworth is still top and, I’m afraid, Chris Pine never really stood a chance. This was never a race for the top Chris spot in my heart but it was all about second place. The first Captain America film felt like a super rushed effort to get us to The Avengers before people got too distracted. It wasn’t a bad film by any stretch of the imagination but it certainly felt a bit too retro and hokey. So, as excited as I was to see Bucky return as the Winter Solider, I wasn’t exactly on the edge of my seat waiting for the sequel. What a fucking idiot I was back then.

The Winter Solider is, hands down, the greatest Marvel film that has ever been released. Don’t get my wrong, others come super close but this was the greatest all round film to come out of the studios. It was so unexpected. Not only did it completely change the tone of the character after the first movie but it broke the dreaded sequel curse that had afflicted both Iron Man and Thor. Yes, it might not have the relaxed and silly feel that Guardians has and or the great dialogue of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers; what it does have is everything else. It has a narrative that feels contemporary and relevant… or as relevant as a comic book movie can be. There are some great performances and a whole host of great new characters. It has action, excitement and emotional struggle. Cap has lost a lot of the campy feeling that weighed down the first film and is finally ready to show you what he can do. Turns out it’s fucking great.

After the events of The Avengers, Steve is trying to get to grips with the modern world whilst also helping out with any mission SHIELD needs his help with. Until Nick Fury discovers that the agency has actually been infiltrated by HYDRA agents. Turns out the group that Steve thought he had died stopping way back in the War have actually survived and waited until the perfect time to strike. They have possession of an algorithm that can reveal the identity of anyone who would potentially stand in their way and plan on unleashing deadly weapons to take them all out. There’s also the case of the mysterious super soldier that HYDRA seem to have at their disposal: a mam known only as the Winter Soldier. Cap must find out who he can and can’t trust as he tries to prevent the Nazi group carrying out their plan for mass murder. Thankfully, he has Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and new friend, Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) by his side, as well as a few more familiar faces.

The Winter Solider is a fantastic narrative that offers a suspense-filled political drama and an action-packed superhero movie. It also features plenty of soul searching for Steve as he comes face-to-face with people from his past. The story feels a lot more grown up than the Nazi chasing plot of the first film and, because it is based in the contemporary world, feels more relevant and cutting edge. There is plenty of action to keep you involved and the tension builds until the epic finale. Although, I will admit that there are certain issues and Winter Solider isn’t immune to the MCU’s final showdown rule where a huge structure falls to the Earth and causes untold amounts of damage. The narrative is full of great ideas but there is a lot going on. Certain sideline characters are introduced clumsily and not really given time to shine. There are a lot of parts to juggle and a lot of exposition to get in. However, for the most part, the film handles itself incredibly well.

Winter Solider is not the perfect film but it is the closest that Marvel has come to perfect. The Russo brothers do a great job taking over the reigns and allow the character to step out of his previously camp light. This is when Captain America stopped being a throwback and started being relevant in the landscape of contemporary film. It was a partnership that worked so well that the brothers returned to direct the equally great third film in Cap’s series, Civil War. I know there will always be disagreements about what is the greatest Marvel film but, for my part, The Winter Solider never fails to entertain me. And that’s all the really matters.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Bradley Cooper, Chris Pratt, comic book, comic books, films, Marvel, reviews, Zoe Saldana

Last week I saw Guardians of the Galaxy 2 with a friend. Before I saw it I was filled with fear and doubt about how good it was. The trailers hadn’t really done much to suggest that Marvel were doing anything other than call-backs and in-jokes mixed with loads of shots of Baby Groot. I was sure it was going to be super fucking cringey and just ruin my love of the first one. I mean, Baby Groot is cute and all but I need something more than a CGI’d tiny tree to keep me happy, you know. So I was concerned but I loved the first film so much. It wasn’t perfect but, really, what Marvel movie is? We don’t love them because they’re flawless films; we love them because they’re awesome regardless. Anyway, this film boasts Kurt Russell as Ego and I’m not the kind of person who can happily walk away from that situation. Two powerhouses coming together in one place? Yes, please. Especially when accompanied by still buff Christ Pratt. Really, it didn’t matter if this film was good or bad as long as Star Lord was as easy one the eye as the first time.

Whilst Guardians of the Galaxy is now well-known as being part of the lighter side of the MCU, it’s important to remember that it opens with an incredibly emotional and dark moment. It opens with the very real and human sequence where young Peter Quill is faced with the death of his mother. It is something that soon gets lost in all the fun and quips but it hangs over Quill’s life and the film. It showed that, despite seeming like being nothing more than a jolly good time, Guardians was willing to deal with some deep shit. This is something that is also true of it’s sequel. Seriously, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to be walking in to but I definitely didn’t expect there to be quite so many feels.

But we’ll get there, Guardians of the Galaxy starts off as everyone wanted it to and proved that director James Gunn was still going to approach this in the same way he had the first one. We dive headfirst into an impending battle between out hapless heroes and a huge beast. Unexpectedly, however, we see the battle take place in the background as tiny Groot dances to ELO’s Mr Blue Sky. It’s a fabulous opening scene that had me grinning from ear to ear and caused all of my doubts to dissolve in the overriding sweetness on show. It’s a great opening scene and makes huge promises to the audience. Unfortunately, it can’t deliver on all of those promises.

Where Guardians 2 really flies is within Gunn’s dialogue and in the interaction between the group at its core. When the main 5, plus Yondu, get a chance to really shoot the breeze everything just feels right. There’s such a great chemistry on screen and Gunn has a wonderful sense of how the relationships should work. In an ideal world, this film would literally just have been a rambling film where the gang fly around space and banter with each other. However, films of this type generally require plots and action to keep an audience interested. So, thanks to a clunky plot device, we are quickly introduced to Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) estranged father, Ego (Kurt Russell). Turns out, Quill comes from very good genes as his immortal, planet God father is all too eager to tell him. Whilst Quill loves getting to know his only living family his team mates have bad feelings about this.

Gamora (Zoe Saldana) doesn’t trust the newly discovered father figure and as it turns out, she has good reason. When Ego showcases a desire for some doomsday level shenanigans, the gang must save Peter from falling under his spell. Before we get there, of course, there’s some other stuff with Rocket (Bradley Cooper) getting caught up in a coup on Yondu’s ship and a shit load of adoptive sisterly tension between Gamora and Nebula (Karen Gillan). Plus, plenty of times where Drax (Dave Bautista) is able to be fucking hilarious. After the super slick and fun opening sequence the rest of the film starts to run away with itself. Gunn always manages to reign it in but there is the inescapable feeling that everything is rushing towards the inevitable CGI filled climactic showdown. Really, it kind of seems that Gunn was so desperate to outdo himself that it ends up being a bit desperate and over-the-top. There’s just so much drama and action and it’s just not necessary. Then there are the endless pop culture references that, whilst fresh in the first one, just seem relentless now. It feels like all those YA post-apocalyptic books that reference 80s music to hide the fact that the author doesn’t have the creativity to build a fleshed out post-apocalyptic world. Missing something in your narrative? Just reference a classic sitcom or song. It feels like Gunn’s constant referencing is just an attempt to paper over some cracks.

This isn’t a bad film, though and, even in it’s dodgier moments, always maintains that sense of fun and heart. There are some fantastic scenes and the expansion of Michael Rooker’s Yondu is a fabulous edition. It was a surprising turn of events that this film ended up having one of the most emotionally fraugh ending of any film I’ve seen recently. More than any film in the MCU so far, Guardians 2 has some fucking hard consequences… and it’s brilliant. The sequel may not be quite as good, clever, or original as the first film but it’s still well-worth a look. I mean it was never going to reach the heady heights of the first one because that was such a shock. We knew what to expect here and it delivered exactly that, which was, in a way, its undoing. It’s the awful irony of success I suppose.

Despite everything I really loved this film and was super happy with how Gunn and co did in creating a sequel. It was funny, exciting and visually interesting. The main 5 are getting better and better together and I look forward to future films. I just hope they reign themselves in a bit. Both in terms of the actual film and the post-credits scenes. I mean fucking 5 clips? This whole Marvel tease is getting out of control. Although, it would be fine if they were fulfilling clips but most of them add nothing. I guess one was funny but most just felt unnecessary. A brief tease to a future character, a glimpse to appease comic book fans and a teenage Groot moment that just fell flat. Guardians 2‘s greatest sin was putting the final nail in the coffin of the post-credit bonus clip. Marvel, it’s time to stop this nonsense now. Thanks.

SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

animals, animation, currently reading, just read, Marvel, Netflix, recently watched, Will Ferrell, X-Men

I feel like I’ve had a rough day at work. I can tell because, somehow, it’s 21:30 and I’ve just woken up with no idea where the time went. I think it’s because I had last weekend off so I forgot what it’s like. Still, I am writing this feel a sense of accomplishment because I’ve finally finished another book this year. That means I’m up to about 5. In 2.5 months. That doesn’t feel like a great rate when you put it like that. I need to find more time to read. I used to read on my break at work but I’m getting more sociable. I miss the days when I was a quiet introvert sat in the corner reading. I just need to stop making friends with the people I work with. It’s so distracting to the more important things in my life.

Just Finished

  • The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
I finally finished this book. After all this time. It’s over. And, lacking anything to talk about on Tuesday, and because I haven’t done a book review in a while, I’m going to discuss it then. 

Currently Reading

  • The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion
Finishing my previous books means I finally get to start a new one. This one of the new novel by the writer of The Rosie Project. I read that book last year and, to my surprise, I didn’t hate it. I liked it but felt it was a bit predictable and cliched. I also thought that, despite the positive image it presents of Autism and the potential for love, it somewhat romanticised Don a little. He almost becomes the Asperger’s version of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. It meant I never read the follow up novel but it did make me excited for this one. It’s all about growing older and looking back on what you lost along the way.
Recently Purchased
  • The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (Illustrated by Alan Lee) 
I already own each of The Lord of the Rings books in various forms but I decided I wanted to buy these illustrated editions. I managed to find them all fairly cheap and I’m so excited. Lee’s illustrations are quite impressive and add something to the story. Tolkien didn’t illustrate these books much because he ended up hating the illustrations he did for The Hobbit. For the majority of texts, the most you’ll get is maps and images of runes and stuff. This is perfect for me but I was interested in seeing what Lee’s illustrations added to my reading experience. Plus, it’ll be the first full set I’ve ever owned.

Recently Watched
  • X2
In honour of the release of Logan and my review this week, I went back and watched this film. Not only was it my favourite in the entire X-Men film series but it was the only one that I hadn’t already reviewed. See what I thought in last week’s TBT review
  • Netflix binges: BoJack Horseman
A guy at work has constantly been recommending this to me but I’m never that sure about adult animated shows. Sometime they’re great but other times it just seems too pointless. Like someone is trying too hard to be risque and it just doesn’t make it. As I watched the first series I wasn’t really bothered until at least halfway through. It just felt like every alternative adult animated comedy and every other story about a middle-aged man doing awful things. Where was the originality? Other than the fact that the man in question is a horse that wasn’t much new or fresh about the show. It certainly picked up towards the end and series 2 feels better. It’s opened up more and given supporting characters more substance. There’s finally light at the end of the tunnel so I’ll definitely stick with it.

TBT – X2 (2003)

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If you’d asked me before I saw Logan last week, which film in the X-Men series was my favourite I would have confidently answered “Bryan Singer’s second film”.  It took all of the good things about the first film but made them much better. It also has one of the best endings to a comic book movie ever. The fact that Brett Ratner fucked it all up is another story. It still remains a fucking awesome cliffhanger. X2 is a remarkable sequel that manages to break the rule that the second films always fair worse than their predecessors. It is clever, well written, well acted, and has some of the best action sequences you could hope for. This post marks the moment that I’ve finally posted a review of all existing films in the X-Men franchise. I’ve seen some great films and some not so great films. This remains one of the best. Had it not been for Hugh Jackman’s swansong this year, X2 would have remained the very best.

X2 picks up where Bryan Singer’s first film left off. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is still trying to piece together his forgotten history thanks to the information Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) found in his head. Magneto (Ian McKellen) has been captured and is being held prisoner by the deadly Colonel Stryker (Brian Cox). Handily, Stryker was also the man responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton so, when Professor X and Cerebro are taken by Stryker for his evil plan, the mutton-chopped anti-hero is more than happy to help track him down. Unfortunately. he finds that he must accept help from the X-Men’s greatest foe when Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) breaks Magneto out of prison. Hence, the secondary title of this film: X2: X-Men United.

In keeping with the theme of the original comic books, Byran Singer’s film making certainly evolved between the making of X-Men and it’s sequel. The first one was criticised for being kind of unsure of itself and it was believed that Singer wasn’t the right man to make a big budget, Hollywood action film. Thankfully, he got more comfortable with the sequel and managed to create one hell of a film. I mean look at the fucking opening sequence. In a franchise that in recent years has given us the unforgettable Quicksilver prison sequence, the attempted Presidential assassination by new mutant, Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) still looks fantastic today. It’s kind of breathtaking and really well made… and it was made 14 years ago when films effects were nowhere near as advanced as today’s. Something you can definitely tell whenever Wolverine stands in front of the green-screened Alkali Lake. But, the sequence where Nightcrawler evades Secret Service agents is just mesmerising.

This is X-Men but just that little bit more amped-up. It is bigger, louder, more ambitious and more exciting. Action becomes a key part of the film and there are several impressive sequences that range in size and complexity. It is a darker film without ever straying beyond it’s PG-13 status. After watching Logan I couldn’t help but wish that it had been the R rated wonder that the latter film turned out to be. We could have saved ourselves a lot of time. Still, X2 feels more comfortable being a comic book movie than X-Men ever did. It still has the same maturity that made the first film seem so good but it also understands that it needs to let got once in a while.

X2 is a longer film than the first and has a greater array of characters to introduce to the plot. These are mostly handled really well and there is never a sense that there are too many personalities on screen. Each of the X-Men get there moment to really show off their power and are able to reengage with the audience. In fact, it is only Lady Deathstroke that is really wasted here and even she gets a pretty awesome fight scene. I mean Cyclops is obvsiously given short-shrift here but I like to think that’s mainly because he’s naturally a little bit boring. Cool, don’t get me wrong, but not the stand-out player in anyone’s (comic) book.

What X2 does really well is continue the political and social elements that X-Men sets up. The film continues with the idea of segregation and a dersire to wipe out the mutant race entirely. It plays with themes from modern history and creates a story that is more than just good guys beating up bad guys. Considering it is such a huge blockbuster, the scenes that resonate the most are the more personal scenes that deal with these themes. Just take the scene in which Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) “comes out” as a mutant to his parents. It is such a clever, funny, and familiar scene that it gives the classic comic book heroes a more realistic and time appropriate feel. The script is incredibly clever and the actors all play their parts incredibly.

Although, I won’t pretend that X2 is perfect. There are problems with the final act and some loose ends are tied up a bit too quickly or roughly. It’s structure is a bit disjointed and there are certain elements that could have run smoother. However, it is without a doubt the best X-Men related movie to ever have been made… until 2017 that is..

Tuesday’s Reviews – Logan (2017)

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We’ve known for a while that Hugh Jackman was on his slowly moving towards his final outing as the character he’s played since 2000. For 17 years Huge Ackman has continued to prove that nobody could have been cast in the role of Wolverine and has gained a phenomenal number of fans. So when the first details of Logan were announced it became a clear the whole thing was going to be fairly emotional.., and that was before the trailer sound-tracked by Johnny Cash’s cover of ‘Hurt’ was even released. I’ve been excited about this film for a long time but I was also faced with a certain amount of trepidation about seeing it. Not because I thought it was going to be bad (everything we were shown pre-release destroyed any fears regarding quality) but because it’s the end of an era. It’s a bittersweet sensation that Hugh Jackman is finally able to do great things in the character’s first R rated outing just before he leaves the role (almost certainly) forever. Suffice it to say I was struggling to hold back the tears as the film went on and was only prevented from bawling like a baby thanks to the awful guy we were sat next to and his inability to shut the fuck up. It’s weird but I can’t help mourning the loss of this character. He’s become so iconic through Jackman’s interpretation and the X-Men movie franchise is always going to feel like it’s missing something now. Thank fuck the big guy went out on a high though, eh.

Logan was primarily billed as an adaptation of the Old Man Logan storyline. I think that description is taking more than a few liberties but there are some distinct similarities. The year is 2029 and mutants have become a rare breed. They are no longer being born and the remaining few are slowly dying out. Amongst them are two familiar faces; Logan (Hugh Jackman), now ageing and losing his healing factor, and Professor X (Patrick Stewart), whose deteriorating brain function is causing his mutant power to get out of control. They are also joined by a new face; Caliban (Stephen Merchant), an albino mutant who is able to sniff out mutants. The three are in hiding in Mexico where Logan has the Prof holed up in an old water tower and pumps him full of drugs to hold off the seizures for as long as possible. The end goal is to make enough money ferrying drunks around in a limo so the group can buy a boat and sail off into the sunset.

Of course, things have never been that simple where Logan is concerned. He is soon left in charge with the first mutant to be born since everything went tits up. This young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen) is being hunted by a team of mercenaries lead by Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook) who is working on behalf of smarmy scientist, Zander Rice (Richard E Grant). In order to escape the bad guys with guns, Logan takes his new charge and the dangerous nonagenarian on the mother of all car journeys to take her to safety. Whilst Logan is already struggling with his deteriorating powers, he must also come to terms with his new found role of father as he attempts to keep Laura and the Professor safe.

When it was announced that Logan would be Wolverine’s first R rate movie experience audiences got excited. Last year Deadpool showed us that comic book movies and adult only violence could mix really well. However, Logan is an entirely different film. Whilst Deadpool still appealed to the child in all of us, Logan is all maturity. If it wasn’t for the frequent unsheathing of adamantium claws and bionic hands, this wouldn’t feel like a comic book movie at all. This is The Road or The Last of Us. It is a tale of survival but not on the global scale that the X-Men are used to. It’s a very clever and emotionally wrought film. The focus is on ageing and responsibility. It is a character driven narrative that features big action sequences rather than the action based X-Men films we’re used to. Thor the violence, that has been such a huge talking point in the run up to the film, is really neither here nor there. Yes, there is a lot of fight sequences where arms get chopped off and metal claws pierce people’s skulls but it is completely secondary to the story. It’s almost as if it’s there because it has to be. Rather than Deadpool, which almost made the violence it’s biggest draw, Logan relies on its emotional resonance to leave the biggest impact.

So much of this film rests on the actor’s involved and thankfully the 3 main characters are superb. For the most part, Laura is mute but newcomer Dafne Keen does incredibly well to with bringing the character to life on screen. She is silent but deadly and super cool. Her relationship with Logan is slowly realised as the pair come to rely on each other. It’s adorable and loving. However, it can’t hold a candle to the main relationship on screen: namely the one between Logan and Charles. We are faced with a situation almost directly opposite to the one that emerges from the first film. In X-Men Logan comes to Xavier as a dangerous weapon with no idea of his history and the Professor teaches him how to control his powers. In 2029, it is Charles who is the dangerous mutant who Logan must keep controlled using drugs. The pair have come through so much but have a deep love for one another. It is a testament to the actor’s friendship off screen that the onscreen partnership is so strong.

Logan is unlike any other superhero movie out there. It is darker and more brutal that Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. It lacks the requisite lashings of hope to keep an audience happy at the end. It shows the dark side of humanity and an incredible bleak future. This film is the best comic book movie offering I’ve ever seen. In fact, Logan is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time, Rather than dealing with mass death on a unrealistic scale, this focuses in on the all-too-real issues of mortality and the legacy we leave behind. Just as Jackman is moving on from the character shrouded in the respect and adoration that comes with it, Logan is faced with a reputation that he is struggling to live up to. He can no longer be the man that he once was and, instead of facing off with the bad guy, he aims for a quite life taking care of his elderly father figure. Logan still suffers from some questionable decisions and is far from being the perfect film. However, considering the other solo offerings we’ve seen, it is certainly the best outing we’ve had for the character. Hugh Jackman dominates in the role of weary ex-superhero and, if this really is to be his last onscreen appearance as the mutton-chopped anti-hero, I don’t think anyone could have asked for a better way to end his tenure.

Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Films I’m Looking Forward To This Year

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So last week I released my list of books that I’m most looking forward to (probably not) reading this year. So I decided, as it’s that time of the month when I need to create a list of 10 random things, that it was only fair that I put down on e-paper the films that I’m most excited to see this year. It turns out that was really fucking hard. There are a lot of great films coming out and I’m super excited about all of them. Even really surprising ones. I mean, had you asked me this time last year, that I’d be quite looking forward to seeing Michael Keaton star in the story of the founder of McDonalds I’d have thought you were mad. Now, however, I think it looks pretty good. I mean I love Keaton and it stars the internet’s favourite man’s man Nick Offerman. Plus, there was a point when I didn’t think I wanted to see The Social Network but that turned out better than expect. I also, even more shockingly, became fairly interested in the Justice League film. I’m still not ecstatic about the release because the last two films in DC’s arsenal were utter dogshit. I think it’s basically just down to Jason Momoa though. And Batfleck. But, before I get distracted by sexy superheroes, I should present the list… with more than enough sexy superheroes.
Ten: War for the Planet of the Apes

I really enjoyed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and I loved Rise of the Planet of the Apes back in 2011. The rebooted franchise has created some fantastic pequels so I’m incredibly keen to see what’s coming next.

Nine: Blade Runner 2049

Of course I’m excited about the prospect of Harrison Ford returning to the role of Rick Deckard but there is still a part of me that worries. It’s been a long time. Still, everything we’ve seen so far looks good and gives a positive feeling. Plus, director Denis Villeneuve directed last year’s Arrival which everyone seemed to fucking love. So it’s probably in safe hands.

Eight: Murder on the Orient Express

Probably not going to be top of too many people’s lists but I think I’m going to enjoy this one. It’s Kenneth Branagh directing himself and a shitload of really famous actors to retell the classic Hercule Poirot tale. Yes, we all know who did it but that’s not the point. It’s about watching our favourite Belgian detective work out those “leetle grey cells” to figure it out. And, at this point, I think I’d allow Branagh to play anybody.

 Seven: Alien: Covenant

I know it received mixed reviews but I kinda liked Prometheus. I mean it was a bit of a fucking mess but, for the most part, I think it was a decent film. I get why people were upset though. It was billed as the epic prequel to one of the best films ever made but it didn’t even feature the titular alien creature. So, this year’s follow up should make amends for that if the poster is anything to go by. Really, this could be a retelling of the first Alien film and this would fair better than Prometheus. Plus, you know, Michael Fassbender is fucking weird in this role.

 Six: Logan Lucky

I’m kinda getting sick of Steven Soderbergh telling us he’s retiring and then making another film. Or at least I would be sick of it if it wasn’t for the idea of another Soderbergh film. It’s been 4 years since he made the announcement and now he’s back making a comedy about a robbery duing a NASCAR race. It’s got an interesting and star-studded line-up. What we know about the plot sounds kinda ropey but it’s fucking Soderbergh. How can you ignore it?

Five: Thor: Ragnorak

I know Thor isn’t everyone’s favourite part of the MCU but I’m a massive fan of his first film. I think the second was kind of dodgy but I still have faith in this series. The huge-armed Norse God is back for his third film and, for anyone that knows anything about Norse mythology will know, Ragnorok can only mean trouble. Thankfully, Thor is helped by his pal the Hulk and Marvel’s newest sign-up Doctor Strange. We’ve lost the unnecessary and bland Jane but I’m sure nobody, Natalie Portman included, is crying about that.

Four: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Guardians of the Galaxy was a sort of surprisingly huge hit when it came out 3 years ago. It introduced us to the ragtag bunch of people who accidentally get caught up in trying to save the world. Their second film promises much of the things that made the first one great so obviously I’m excited. But, as we’ve learnt by now, Marvel sequels don’t have the greatest track record. I mean, to date, only 1 follow-up manages to equal/improve on the first film: The Winter Soldier. At the worst we have Iron Man 2 (happily improved upon with Iron Man 3) but the rest were all just kind of meh. So, I do have a fear that Guardians 2 will just try and replay all of it’s greatest hits without offering up any new material. As much as I love him, I need more than just “I am Groot” but said in a baby voice now.

Three: Spider-Man: Homecoming

If Civil War taught us anything it was that a Marvel controlled Spider-Man film could be the best thing ever. Then the trailer for Homecoming was released and it definitely backed up the claim. Tom Holland looks set to steal Andrew Garfield’s crown as best portrayal of the web-slinger. Still, this is the 3 time in about 15 years that this franchise has been rebooted and it’s the 3 different actor to lend his face to the role. I’m not sure it was necessary and, more worryingly, I feel that Marvel are pushing Tony Stark too much. Maybe his role will work in the film as a whole but, from what we’ve seen so far, this could very easily become the Iron Man show. And that would be an injustice.

Two: Star Wars Episode 8 

Well, duh! Rogue One was the best Star Wars film to be released since the originals and it got me incredibly excited for what’s coming next. The Force Awakens did a great job of bringing us back into the world but left so many things unanswered. This is the time to find out. Plus, it’s directed by Rian Johnson who also did Brick and Looper so we’re in pretty safe hands.  

One: Logan

There was really no other choice for the number 1 spot. Logan is a key film this year for so many reasons. Mostly because, after 17 years, Hugh Jackman is finally saying goodbye to the character. It’s so weird to think that he’s been playing the guy for so long. He basically is Wolverine at this point. I can’t imagine anyone else having taken the character this far if Jackman hadn’t got the role. Add to that the fact that it’s the character’s first film to receive an R-rating. Last year’s Deadpool showed us that it’s no bad thing to make comic book movies just for adults so it feels right that Jackman should get to show us what Logan can really do for this final time. The comic book Wolverine was always an incredibly violent character and that’s not really been able to come across in any of the others. We need to see him really letting his anger out. I’m so fucking pumped for this film.

Top 10 Wen-sday: Top 10 Fictional Characters I’d Invite to Christmas Dinner

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It’s so close to Christmas it’s unreal. In 10 days it’ll be Christmas Eve. I think I’ve just about got my presents all sorted but who really knows. I’m not a fan of last minute shopping but I tend to need little stocking fillers as I go through the month. Still, I’m mostly there. As it’s a time of celebration I’m adding a few additional posts this month. Each year I’ve released a Christmas top 10: My Essential Christmas films and My Least Favourite Christmas films. So I’m planning on keeping them as festive as possible but I’m likely to run out of ideas by next week. We’ll see how it goes. For now, I decided to delve into the world of fantasy dinner party and decide who I’d invite to my ultimate Christmas celebration.
Ten: Brienne of Tarth

My main reasoning for including Brienne on this list is simply because it’s kind of a habit to include her on all of fictional character based lists. It’s no secret that she’s my favourite character in both the book and the show. It’s also no secret that I adore Gwendoline Christie. If Brienne came to my Christmas dinner then I’d spend most of the time just starring at her the way Torumund did at Castle Black.

Nine: Belle

Now I’m not talking about the Belle from the upcoming, unnecessary live action Beauty and the Beast as played by the annoying Emma Watson. Nor am I talking about the Belle on the show I’ve tried so hard to enjoy Once Upon a Time. No, I’m talking classic, animated Belle. She’s always been my favourite Disney princess because she loves books as much as I do. There’s nothing I enjoy more than talking about books and it’s something I don’t really get to do too often. So, I’d love nothing more than sitting in a post-Turkey daze and discussing my favourite novels with Belle. Unlike friends, she might appreciate the Romantic era fiction that I recommend to her. Of course, being so fucking cynical, I’d find her hopeless romantic thing quite annoying but it would be something we could happily debate on.

Eight: Holtzmann

Another of my latest character obsessions. Jillian Holtzmann is the greatest thing to come out of the Ghostbusters reboot and Kate McKinnon is such a fantastic performer. I’d love the chance to meet the Holtz but worry that she would make dinner a little awkward. Not that I don’t love awkward moments but, as a perfect host, I’d have to think about my guests. Still, I love her so she’s coming.

 Seven: Rob Fleming (High Fidelity)

High Fidelity is one of my favourite books and films. I love it. You may remember Rob was featured on my list of Top 5 Fictional Husbands. As such, I’d love to invite Rob to my Christmas dinner. I mean we both a predilection for making Top 5/10 lists so we could definitely turn it into an amusing dinner table game. He’d also know the best tunes to play before, during, and after dinner to keep us all in the party mood.

 Six: Leslie Knope

Re-watching Parks and Rec recently gave me an all new appreciation of Leslie Knope and what a great person she is. She champions women, loves her friends, and won’t back down in an argument. She’s the kind of person I pretend to be but much nicer and much more successful. I’d love to sit next to her at Christmas dinner because, not only would we have a great in-depth discussion about all things, I think she’d share my childish love of the holiday.

Five: Thor

Thor is my favourite superhero. I love all of the Norse mythology and his Shakespearean qualities. He’s so dramatic and literal about everything. I have to admit it would be kind of cool to have him at my Christmas dinner just so I could say there was a real-life God there. Kinda cool, no? Plus, the arms are always a plus. He also seems that he’d be fun to have at a party. Asgardians are basically Vikings and they were kind of up for a good time. Also, how great an after dinner game would it be to try and lift Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir? You’ve had all the turkey so now let’s find out whose worthy.

Four: Buddy the Elf

I don’t know about you guys but I always feel that Christmas Day is kind of let down after the endless weeks of lead up. I’m not saying I’ve ever had a terrible Christmas Day but we’re always just so exhausted we end up eating and lounging for the entire day. What we really need is an injection of Christmas spirit. And who has the largest supply of that round here? Buddy’s love for the holiday is contagious and he’d have no trouble getting everyone up around the piano for a sing song. With Buddy at your house, every Christmas can be like the ones you see in every American sitcom’s Christmas special. Plus, you know, the candy.

Three: Tyrion Lannister

Despite everything the Bible tries to tell us, Christmas is basically about excess and over-indulgence. It’s about spending too much money, stuffing your face, drinking too much, and basically letting go. Who embraces these ideas more than anyone? Yes, the self-titled “God of tits and wine”. To re-appropriate Ke$ha for a second, the party don’t start til he walks in.

Two: Newt Scamander

Not only would the addition of Newt to the party mean guaranteed Eddie Redmayne but it would also mean some fantastic stories. Newt has travelled all over the wizarding world and met some of the most amazing creatures. He’d be able to fill the time with so many exciting tales. There’s always a boring lull on Christmas Day when you’re eaten too much but there’s a few hours before Doctor Who is on. Newt would be the perfect person to fill the silence. Hell, if we’re lucky he might even get his Niffler out… which, as I’m writing it down, definitely sounds like a euphemism you might come across in the wizard world. Hey, Newt, how’s about you let my play with your Niffler.

One: Sookie St. James

This is the second time this month that Sookie has been in the number 1 spot of my top 10 list. Maybe she’ll be the new Brienne? Anyway, I think Sookie would be a great person to invite to dinner. Not only would she definitely bring something scrumptious to eat but she’s just such lovely human being. Why would you want to spend this holiday with people who were anything but nice? My only doubt would be the fact that she would clearly be silently judging everything that was being cooked for her. It would take about five seconds of her being in the house before she was “fixing” everything that was being made in the kitchen. Still, what a meal we’d get in the end.