Tuesday’s (ish) Reviews – Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

Tuesday’s (ish) Reviews – Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)

I’ve always felt that Andrew Garfield got a bit of a rough deal when it came to his time as Spider-Man. He is now widely considered the worst version of the character to appear on screen but it’s hardly his fault. Now, I liked The Amazing Spider-Man and thought Garfield did a really good job with the character of Peter Parker. Yes, he wasn’t the same geeky, isolated young man that we’re used to but we’re living in a world where geek is cool. Garfield gave Peter some sass and it could have worked really well for him because Spider-Man has always been the sassy one. The films didn’t work because Garfield was bad but because he wasn’t given the right material. Sony fucked up the reboot in order to get it out in time. I think the things would have been very different if the actor had been given more of a chance and there had been more thought in the whole thing. Plus, there’s a lot of weird nostalgia surrounding Toby Magurire’s time as the character that I don’t really get. He’s not that good. It’s just that he was the first major big screen version of the character. It just boggles my mind that so much of the stuff I read before I saw Tom Holland’s first solo outing as the web-slinger was focused on how great Maguire was and how shit Garfield was. Let’s be honest, we could do better than both of the attempts Sony made and his brief time in Civil War showed that maybe Holland had what it took.

First off, I have to say it is super refreshing that the third reboot of Spider-Man in 15 years doesn’t feel the need to remind us of how the superhero came into being. We all get it by now: radioactive spider bite, superpowers, move into heroics. Yes, there is a brief reference to it but it is so underplayed that it doesn’t matter. Instead, the main action picks up shortly after the evens of Captain America: Civil War as Peter Parker is eagerly awaiting his next call to assemble. Instead, he is left dealing with petty street crime and helping old ladies carry their shopping. Safe to say, the young man is bored. Until he stumbles upon a black market that is selling weapons made out of salvaged alien technology. Run by the mysterious Vulture (Michael Keaton) who literally, thanks to his mechanical wings, swoops in and steals the technology from under the government’s nose.

Spidey, keen to prove to Tony Stark that he can handle the big stuff, starts investigating the Vulture’s gang but constantly finds himself out of his depth. Especially as he’s also trying to make his way through highschool unscathed and get noticed by school hottie, Liz (Laura Harrier). As well as being influenced by the MCU in general, director Jon Watts clearly takes a lot from the coming-of-age films of people like John Hughes. There are countless on-screen references to high-school comedies and there is one particular Ferris Bueller joke that is totally on point. This is a Peter Parker who really is living in two worlds and trying to balance the two. He is an awkward but intelligent young man who worries about girls and grades just as much as he worries about stopping bad guys.

Despite only being on screen for a few minutes in Civil War, Tom Holland had already made a massive impressive on fans of the MCU before Homecoming came along thanks to his portrayal of Peter Parker. It is the best on screen version of the teenager that we’ve ever seen. Holland’s Parker feels the most realistically young version that we’ve ever seen and has been updated for 2017 teenagers. He is techno-savvy but awkward in a way that doesn’t come across as annoying. He reacts to getting superpowers the way that most of us would have done at that age. We can all empathise  with his fanboy reaction to the likes of Tony Stark. He gets caught up in the bigger picture and tries to run before he can walk but it is done with the best intentions. The character definitely has that Marvel sense of development that was lacking in both Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s turns. Holland finally gives us the Peter we deserve.

That is not to say that I agree with the people happily declaring that Homecoming is the best superhero movie of the year. I really enjoyed the film and did so as soon as I heard the arrangement of the ‘Spider-Man theme song’ playing over the film’s opening sequence. It is a light-hearted and fun affair that captures the spirit of the character. However, I confess that I felt there was a bit of a disparity between it’s two identities. I realise that the film wanted to situate itself within the MCU whilst also ensuring that this was a Spider-Man film in it’s own right. However, it just feels a bit too confused. It just doesn’t feel enough like either. We have the standard MCU final showdown that is kind of underwhelming in the grand scheme of things but then we also have the teen movie moments like high school parties. Individually these things are fine but they just seemed a bit too at odds for me. I’d have preferred one or the other. I think future Spider-Man films with Holland have the potential to be superb if he can remove himself from the Avengers. This film seemed more about taking the character and showing us that he was firmly part of the family instead of giving him a solo outing.

Still, this isn’t something that really hindered my overall enjoyment of the film. There is plenty to love about the film and, despite my annoyance, it’s always nice to see more RBJ and Jon Favreau on screen. Of course, the greatest strength, after Holland, is clearly Michael Keaton’s Vulture. The Vulture isn’t the biggest or baddest villain that we’ve ever seen in the MCU but he is perfect. Keaton plays him so well and he feels like a realistic result of the increased super-activity in the MCU. There is a scene towards the end of the film where the Vulture and Peter Parker come face-to-face for the first time and the whole scene is perfect. Keaton doesn’t overplay the character but still manages to be chilling and terrifying. Spider-Man: Homecoming has some mistakes, that can’t be ignored, but it’s been 13 years since we last had a film about the character to get really excited about. I see a great deal of potential with this incarnation.

TOP 10 WEN-SDAY – RANKING MCU MOVIES

TOP 10 WEN-SDAY – RANKING MCU MOVIES

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.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Captain America: Civil War (2016)

There was plenty of ridiculous drama that went into me finally getting to see the third film in the Captain America trilogy that I’m loathe to bring up. However, I have no other way to introduce my new topic so I’m going to retell the whole petty tale. I have a friend whom I love unconditionally but she’s a huge fucking drama queen. She’s recently got into a new relationship and is, obviously, all about spending her time with her new boyfriend. As such, she’s difficult to tie down for cinema trips. I’d promised her I’d watch this film with her because her new man isn’t much of a film lover and hates comic book movies. Problem is, she won’t commit to a date because she doesn’t know when he’s free. Considering how desperate I was to see this film I got understandably annoyed about her unwillingness to pick a date. Not a problem you might think, I can go without her. Unfortunately, if she ever got wind of the fact that I was contemplating going with someone else then she’d start thinking I’d replaced her with someone else. You see, fucking drama! At 28 I really don’t have time for that school playground bff bullshit so I’m incredibly unsympathetic about the whole thing. Which is exactly why I snuck off to the cinema with a mutual friend behind her back and why I’ll never tell her I’ve seen it. I love my friends to the ends of the Earth but nobody keeps me from the MCU.

Marvel films seems to understand Captain America more than any of its other heroes. He’s the only hero who’s sequel was better than the first and is the only one that has the strongest overarching narrative. These films are built on the friendship between Steve and Bucky and it is Cap’s struggle to save his best friend that has made these films worth watching. Civil War marks the culmination of everything Captain America and Winter Soldier have been preparing us for. I love you Peggy but we all know that Steve’s real OTP is James Barnes.

Civil War pretty much picks up after the events of Age of Ultron where the new Avengers are on a mission in Lagos to prevent Crossbones high-tailing it out of town with a vial of some deadly disease. In the drama Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) inadvertently creates chaos trying to stop Captain American (Chris Evans) being blown up. As this is just the latest in a long line of destruction for the super team politicians of the World unite and attempt to restrict the movements of Earth’s heroes. Unfortunately, the pals don’t all agree to the Sokovia Accords, named after the country that suffered during the battle with Ultron.

Cap disagrees with government control and refuses to sign the accords, something that Iron Man, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) has an issue with. Cap and his ever loyal sidekick , Falcon (Anthony Mackie) are told to hand in their guns and badge and leave the super life behind. Unforunately, that is exactly the same time that a bomb explodes at the UN causing the death of the King of Wakanda supposedly by the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) himself. Captain goes against the government to find his friend first and discovers that Bucky has been set up.

This starts an increasingly ridiculous situation that pits superhero against superhero to either protect or capture dear old Buck. Both Iron Man and Captain America have their followers who are fighting for various and, quite often, flimsy reasons but, provided we see a massive punch-up, I guess it doesn’t matter. Team Cap includes: Bucky; Flacon; Scarlet Witch; Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); Ant Man (Paul Rudd); and ex-shield agent Sharon Carter. Team Iron Man is made up of: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); War Machine (Don Cheadle); Vision (Paul Bettany); and the mysterious Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman). I have an issue with the need for people to take sides but I can’t deny it creates quite a spectacle. The airport showdown is, quite possibly, the greatest scene in the MCU so far.

Captain America: Civil War makes me feel quite conflicted if I’m honest. I totally enjoyed it and the fan girl in me squeed for the full 3000 hour run. However, I felt like it was trying to do too much to the extent that things weren’t as good as they could have been. The airport battle was fucking intense but getting there was difficult and never felt like the logical end to the events on screen. It was never explained in such a way that didn’t make it all feel like a massive stretch. Motivations aren’t clear and most of the choices just don’t make sense for the characters we know and love. I mean I still have no fucking clue why Hawkeye is even fighting. Didn’t he retire? Why does he give a shit?

Plus, there was the desire to introduce so many recurring and new characters that it seemed a bit messy and bloated. It’s a long film and there were time when it felt like it was dragging. Although, I don’t really know what I’d want to lose because Spider Man and Black Panther were two of the best things about the whole thing and I’m super excited about their solo outings. I just wish the whole thing about the Sokovia Accords had had been cut out and it came down to a fight centred on Cap and Bucky’s friendship. I mean that’s essentially what the trilogy has been all about and is the only real reason that Steve would turn his back on his fellow Avengers. The government twist just made things messier.

Still, this was the film that Avengers 2 should have been. It was a great meeting of so many characters and was funny, dark and emotional. The actors all did a great job. Paul Rudd managed to be funny during the most intense moments and Tom Holland looks set to be a great Peter Parker. Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans manage to play their familiar roles with added depth as both Tony and Steve find themselves going down dark paths due to recent events. Tony’s continued declining mental state is both devastating and fantastic to watch. In terms of the characters coming together Civil War gets it right and it feels like it makes amends for the sequel to The Avengers.

However, it tries to do too much and include too much. The overall big baddie is pretty unnecessary and there are a few plot twists that I think we could have done without. Still, despite all of my natural criticisms, I couldn’t help but love this film. It shows that Phase 3 is going to be wild. Thanks to the plot looking at the consequences of extreme power, it shows that we are moving into more grown-up territory and a more mature MCU in the future. It explores some great ideas and, at the end of the day, gives the audience what it wanted from this story. Super heroes beating the shit out of each other. And, if I’m honest, it fucking rocked.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Those of you who have been paying close attention to my Twitter for the last 12 months will know that I’ve been fucking excited about Avengers: Age of Ultron: it’s been my not so secret obsession since James Spader was announced as the voice of titular nemesis. As it happened, it took me a week after its release to finally get around to seeing Age of Ultron and I did so well at avoiding spoilers regarding the shocking ending. That was until the day I had arranged to see it when my fucking dick of a colleague ruined it for me. I haven’t yet forgiven him and its not an exaggeration to say that I probably never will. He fucking knew I was scheduled to see it but still he blundered on, determined to ruin my viewing pleasure. This meant that I was a little underwhelmed when leaving the cinema because I saw through all of Joss Whedon’s intricate plot weaving to the closing act that I knew was heading my way. It was a fucking travesty. However, in the time since my viewing, I’ve had time to calm down and reflect properly on the latest massively multiplayer Marvel movie.

Age of Ultrondoesn’t waste any time getting us right back into the action. It’s been 3 long years since the World’s Mightiest Heroes were last seenout together and we pick up right in the heart of battle. Yes, no slightly tedious semantics about how the team pair up again in this sequel: we know who everyone is, what they can do and, in many cases, what they’ve been up to in the interim. So fuck the heart-warming reunion; let’s pummel some bad guys.
Following on from the aftermath of Winter Soldier, the Avengers are trying to breach a Hydra research facility to get back an all too familiar mind-control staff. Taking place in the fictional eastern European city of Sokovia, the opening action scene is, quite frankly, fucking incredibly. I didn’t even mind the awkward inclusion slow-motion and 3-d friendly visuals. The scene works well by moving between the team one-by-one, neatly allowing each to do their thing before moving along to the next.
The opening sequence also gives us our first real look at the twins, first introduced to us in the credits of Winter Soldier, and their freaky superpowers. Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) uses his immense speed to expertly fuck with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Scarlet Witch (Emily Olsen) uses her psychic powers to just fuck with everyone’s head. As villains go, they have an awful lot of potential to actually beat the most powerful group of heroes in the world.
Out for revenge against Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in particular, Scarlet Witch implants a vision of death and destruction in Iron Man’s head and leads us all on the road to ruin. Wishing to put “a suit of armour around the world”, Stark and physicist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) begin experimenting with artificial intelligence: a seriously dangerous move that could have been avoiding if anyone in the Marvel Universe watched a fucking movie from time to time. As such, Ultron (James Spader) is born and he’s not happy with his creators.
With more than a few knowing nods to Frankenstein, Ultron is born due to his creator’s out of control ego and takes on many of the worst aspects of Stark’s personality. With his tough robotic body, Ultron makes it his mission to destroy the Avengers and bring about “peace in our time”: unfortunately that peace can only be found once mankind is wiped-out. Picking up the Maximoff twins as allies, Ultron looks set to become a real threat once he gets his nifty new body.
As we have come to expect from Whedon now, his emphasis and his strengths lie in his characters. He understands the people that he is presenting on screen and ensures that they are all realised correctly no matter what is happening at the time. They are also well written characters: we see all sorts of parallels emerging between all factions and joyous new sides to existing characters. Hawkeye, so criminally underused in the first film, finally gets some decent lines and a real chance in the spotlight. We see a human side to both Black Widow and Banner/The Hulk thanks to their emerging romance. It’s nice to see Scarlett Johansson get even more to get her teeth into here: she’s too good an actress to simply become the model of a Lycra catsuit.
Age of Ultron just seems more sure of itself than The Avengers ever did. Something that can be seen within the numerous action sequences. The visual effects are fantastic and the way the action moves between each member of the team is much less chaotic than in their previous outing. As further proof that we’re on surer ground here, the fight choreography brings greater emphasis to the group’s teamwork. It finally feels like we’re watching a real unit working together to save the world. There is a real sense of camaraderie oozing out of every scene and its a fucking joy.
Something that is even more apparent in the script which features the traditional Joss Whedon style quips and banter that so wonderfully juxtaposes the ensuing mayhem. Everyone gets a chance to make with the funny but in the Whedonesque way that never breaks up the tension or the action. Like The Avengersbefore it, the film is so much fun that it almost feels wrong. Whedon’s greatest asset will always be the way in which he throws himself into every project with such joy, energy, and care. It’s impossible not to get swept away by it.
Although, Age of Ultron does have its flaws. Just as The Avengers was the first step into Marvel’s Phase Two, the sequel has the daunting task of helping to prepare us for Phase Three. As such, Marvel crams so much extra stuff into the film that it often feels a bit too bloated. We see references to a fucking cavalcade future Marvel films: Captain America: Civil War; Thor: RagnarokBlack Panther; and the two-part Avengers: Infinity War. The Ultron plot was enough for the audience to get their head around without glimpses into the fucking future clogging their brain space.

Still, Whedon manages to bring his unique style and vision to the film and ensure it never fails to deliver on the one most important thing for a comic book movie: fun. Despite my spoiler-inspired negativity post-credits, I’m happy with the way the film worked out and am happy with the newly faces to the Avenger’s line-up. 
Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)

Whilst attempting to compile my list of essential Christmas viewing I wrestled with my choices more than my barely read blog really deserved. One of the films that nearly made the grade was this offering from Shane Black. It is another of those films, along with his other offering Lethal Weapon, that stand on the periphery of Christmas films and films that are merely set during the festive season. I ultimately decided that Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang didn’t quite count as essential viewing over the holidays but that it deserved some recognition on this site.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangstars Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart, a small-time thief who gets mistaken for an aspiring actor and whisked off to the bright lights of Hollywood. In order to research his new role Harry is paired with  private investigator “Gay” Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer) but soon gets himself, and his childhood crush Harmony (Michelle Monaghan), mixed up in crime plot to rival any Hollywood film. Once the bodies start turning up there is simply no stopping them creating more problems for the hapless Harry.

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, like Ronseal, does exactly what it says on the tin. The title is the film’s first in-joke and offers the audience a clear sign of exactly what they are in for. It references the working title of the fourth outing for super spy James Bond, Thunderball, and also the phrase critic Pauline Kael picked out as a description of the thrill-seeking and shallow attitude that she felt had infected cinema. Black’s film is a response to both Kael’s criticism and the trigger-happy excitement associated with 007. We are witnessing a film that embraces its shallow, violent nature whilst remaining sarcastic and self-aware enough to show that it has some depth.
The narrative takes the formula that Black helped reinforce in the 80s and beats it senseless. The bloody and delirious remains are a blend of typical detective and action plots whilst serving as a parody of pulp detective novels. It is smart and funny and Black clearly had fun putting together the twisting storylines. It is an homage to film noir set in the bright lights of the modern and superficial LA scene. The script is full of in-jokes, self-awareness and Black’s own scathing criticism of his own industry.
This is one of the main reasons that certain critics have had such a problem with Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang. Black makes all of the right moves but can’t help but point out that he’s doing it for his own devices. Whilst you are watching, you can’t help but feel that Black is sat beside you constantly elbowing you in the ribs and repeatedly whispering “do you get it?” There are moments when the entire film almost collapses under the weight of its own arrogance. Although, I would have to say that Black’s skill as a writer prevent this from happening. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is trashy, witty and clever and I think it has every right to point it out through Harry’s narrative.
The plot, whilst not completely nonsensical, is convoluted. The action is dragged out by the discovery of another body or a piece of vital new information. It is full of those classic moments when our heroes escape momentarily only to be captured once again. It is difficult to keep track of everything you’re supposed to remember and what’s just there to put you off. Ultimately, though, that’s the point. The plot is really a secondary feature. Concentrate on it too and you miss out on the more important matters. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is, above all else, a buddy movie and it is the great dialogue and wonderful performances that really make this film something special. The chemistry between the three main actors is terrific. Val Kilmer triumphs as the openly gay but hard-nosed PI and produces one of his funniest performances. Robert Downey Jr. is able to bring a tender and emotional slant to his smart-alecky one-liners and self-referential narration. Harry is at times idiotic and naïve but you just can’t help but like him and admire his witty and sarcastic dialogue. Without these two at the helm, this film wouldn’t work. The chemistry and the emotional centre provide a soft counterpoint to the self-importance of the script.
Shane Black tried to be clever with a formula that he and other writers had started to wear out and, luckily for him, he has the skill to make it work and breathe new life into these oft seen scenarios. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang is an exciting and fast-paced look back to the works of Raymond Chandler but with a postmodern attitude. It is a dark comedy with a sarcastic and brash side. The story takes so many turns along the way that keeping up with everything can prove difficult but that is not enough to detract from everything that Black does get right.
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

I have eagerly awaited the release of The Avengers for about 3 years now and there was very little chance that I would walk out of the cinema without a great sense of glee. To say I had high expectations from Joss Whedon’s turn within the Marvel universe is a disgraceful misrepresentation of my pre-Avengers state of mind. I avoided any review or article that I felt would potentially spoil my viewing and resigned myself to watching the trailer repeatedly for the months before release. I was on fucking tenterhooks.

Thanks to the necessary task of ringing together a fuckload of existing characters, the plot takes a bit of time to get going. The film mainly shows the team coming together and is a lot less focused on big action pieces. It isn’t until well into the film that the super group really get to show off their skills and even then the display isn’t that spectacular. Now I didn’t mind the sedate opening sequences or the elongated sequence where Iron Man and Captain America mend things but  Whedon could have done with fleshing out his villains more. This is a comic-book movie afterall. It’s nice to know why we hate the people we really want you to punch in the face.

Although, as you would expect of Whedon, is is the script that’s the key here; it is funny, dramatic and sentimental. There was always a danger that putting such larger than life characters together in one room would create issues and, more likely, the overpowering talents of Robert Downey Jr. would overshadow the newer members of Marvel’s cinematic family. Whedon does a good job of raining in Stark just enough to allow the group to bounce off one and other and create enough tension.

Downey Jr flourishes within this setting. Playing off the already theatrical and narcissistic Iron Man with the nostalgic Captain and Asgardian Prince creates some truly amazing moments of dialogue. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth continue in the much the same vane that we have seen in their previous outings as Captain America and Thor respectively. They both do a good job of portraying the fish out of water within the situation. However, I think their role as outsiders could have been utilised to greater effect.

It is Mark Ruffalo’s turn as Bruce Banner that is the biggest revelation of the film. This is the third actor to take on the scientist in recent years and he is simply marvellous. Ruffalo gives the Big Green an even bigger heart and he brings a vulnerability and humour to the character that neither Eric Bana nor Edward Norton managed in their films. His blossoming friendship with Tony provides some wonderful scenes and some exceptional dialogue. He provides some of the most tender and emotional scenes and garners many of the biggest laughs. So much so that it is the Hulk that comes out on top of his fellow Avengers by the end credits.

Jeremy Renner, as Hawkeye, unfortunately gets little to do here but the moments where he is deeply involved in the plot show a great deal of potential for a rather dismal character (I’m sorry he’s hot but being able to shoot arrows at people is neither an awesomely useful or very unique ability.) In the same way Black Widow (played by a rather uncomfortable looking cat-suited Scarlett Johansson) gets very little to do after her first fight scene. She is, like Renner, used to bring extra sex appeal and very little else. She shows off some kick ass moves but this is overshadowed by the many gratuitous shots of her in her skin-tight costume. Consider the directing choice that caused her face-to-face with Loki to be shot from a camera placed at arse height. I’m not entirely sure that scene tells us anything more about Black Widow other than the fact she is rather pleasing on the eye.

The Avengers themselves are such a powerful force both physically and in terms of their screen presence, that every other character is sort of thrown into the shadows. Well all but one. 2011’s Thor introduced us to Loki and set out his path to become the God of Mischief. The Loki we see in The Avengers is something else entirely. Tom Hiddleston is obviously in his element playing the disgraced (adopted) son of Oden and is just phenomenal. Every line is venomous and he has truly perfected the look of madness and pure evil. It is no wonder, then, that it is Loki who has come out of The Avengers with the biggest army of supporters. Yes he’s trying to take over the world but he’s both very beautiful and vulnerable.

The best moments obviously come when the Avengers are doing what they do best. It was always going to be difficult to spread the time between six individuals but the end result is a necessarily confusing, loud but incredibly exciting battle for the earth. Whilst it is uncertain whether Whedon will actually come back to direct a second outing for the super group I certainly hope he does. This film wasn’t perfect but it was certainly worth the wait for those of us who have been desperate for this day to come.