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.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Wonder Woman (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Wonder Woman (2017)

If you’d asked me how I felt when the Wonder Woman film was first announced I would probably have told you I didn’t give a shit. I was never really into the character, despite my love of badass women, and my limited view just made her seem a bit campy and annoying. Then there’s the issue of an endless stream of disappointing DC films. Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice were both just too dark and completely thoughtless. Then Suicide Squad ruined the chance to be something different and fun by being completely obvious and uninspiring. So, yeah, maybe thanks to their insane love of Zack fucking Snyder I was kind of convinced that DC would somehow fuck this up. Wonder Woman had a lot to live up: it’s the first comic book movie about a female superhero. They beat Marvel at showing a woman being awesome front and centre. It needed to be good. With their track record I couldn’t help but feel that was unlikely… but then again I’m old and cynical by now.
Question: how many times did I actually cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: 1. Question: how many times did I nearly cry during Wonder Woman? Answer: a bazillion. From the moment I started tearing up during the opening scene depicting strong Amazonian women training for battle I knew this film was for me. Finally, a female-led superhero film that shows how strong women can be whilst still remaining feminine. I was instantly hooked. It looked like this was going to be the film I’d wanted: somewhere where women can kickass and show they can do whatever their male counterparts can do. Which is probably why this film takes so many pointers from previous superhero films. Just like Captain America: The First Avenger we travel back in time to World War 1 to see where the breakout character of Dawn of Justice came from. Like Thor we become immersed in a world of Gods and great warriors before being planted firmly in a realm away from mankind. Finally, there are plenty of nods to Richard Donner’s classic Superman films.

However, Wonder Woman is a key film in its own right as it is the first female-led superhero film by either big comic book distributor. Yes, there have been attempts to cater for women in the world of comic book movies but the less said about either Catwoman or Elektra the better. Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, has the weight of Hollywood on her shoulders as she attempts to prove that women have a place in superhero films. Not just front and centre but in the audience too. There is still an obscene generalisation that it is only men who enjoy action films, which in this day and age if frankly an absurd thing to claim. Thankfully, with Patty Jenkins and the insanely amazing Gal Gadot at the helm, Wonder Woman has smashed all kinds of records to, hopefully, show that 2017 was the moment women made their presence felt in the world of comic book movies.

To briefly sum up the narrative before my endless appreciation of this film: Diana is one of an island of Amazons who were created by Zeus to protect mankind from Ares, the God of War. After Zeus dies attempting to overthrow Ares, the Amazons are sent to a secluded island, Themyscira to hide. They spend their time training for the inevitable battle when Zeus final gift, the God Killer, will vanquish their foe forever. Diana, daughter of the island’s Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to fight but is forbidden by her mother. She is trained, in secret, by Antiope (Robin Wright) until she becomes the greatest fighter the island has ever seen. Just in time, as it happens, because war comes to Themyscira in the form of an American pilot and the fleet of German soldiers chasing him. Diana suspects Ares is the reason humanity if at war and, with the pilots help, goes to the frontline to confront and kill him. There’s also the obligatory romance because, really, what kind of woman can go to war and not fall in love?

Wonder Woman may owe a lot to the films of Richard Donner but it has so much fun subverting them that it becomes a whole new thing. Instead of the dashing heroic man saving the damsel in distress, we see the strong, beautiful woman leaping into danger with the puppy-dog eyed pilot lolloping after her. Not that Chris Pine could be accused to lolloping, of course. We clearly have a flipped arrangement of the classic Clark Kent and Lois Lane relationship going on here and its great. More than that, actually, because Pine’s American Spy, Steve Trevor, has some depth to him. He’s not just the Jane Foster of Wonder Woman; he has his own story arc and everything. Steve has to overcome his own demons about the war whilst also casting his sometimes sarcastic eye over Diana’s way of life. What Chris Pine is essentially doing here is WW1 Captain Kirk but, hey, if it works it works.

Steve is more than a match for the Amazonian Princess, Diana, who absolutely sizzles on screen thanks to Gal Gadot’s portrayal. Diana is both terrifyingly strong and noble whilst being incredibly naive and tender. We knew from Dawn of Justice that the ex-Israeli military woman could handle the action sequences with ease but here she proves that she has the talent to bring the character to life. She is brave, sweet, moral and, though we’ve seen it countless times, an adorable fish out of water. She is also, more importantly, funny. A trait that has been sadly lacking in the DCEU for its last 3 films. The visual and narrative links to Clark Kent are numerous, even down to the clothes that Diana uses to remain incognito in WW1 era London, but it all just works.

Wonder Woman is a film that relishes in tackling the excitement of a comic book movie by ensuring the action scenes are over-the-top and visually stunning. However, it does fall into the comic book movie trap of having a final battle scene that just becomes a heavily CGI’d, garish affair. The final 30 minutes of this film drag and lose the glorious momentum of the previous film. My one criticism is that Wonder Woman is so bogged down in Greek mythology. The rest of the film is kind of silly, very important and glorious celebration of the character and women in general. The hunt for Ares just drags it down into the murky, dark waters currently housing every Zack Snyder film ever made. It’s too much. I would have been happy if Diana and co. just kept rescuing innocent people from German soldiers.

Wonder Woman is the perfect DC film. It overshadows its predecessors and shows them just how easy it could be. It offers important messages about female empowerment and feminism whilst also addressing that pesky subject of humanity doing terrible things to each other. I didn’t expect to enjoy this film but I’m happy to eat my own words. This is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Gal Gadot is my ultimate hero and Robin Wright is the biggest badass of all time. I sat through this film with a massive grin on my face… until the finale. But, still, it’s a wonder to behold.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Logan (2017)

Tuesday’s Reviews – Logan (2017)

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

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

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

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

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.

Tuesday’s Review – Doctor Strange (2016)

Tuesday’s Review – Doctor Strange (2016)

I used to be one of those Marvel fangirls who would go and see a new release as soon as it was out. Now I tend to take my sweet time because there doesn’t seem to be any need to rush. I’m guarateend to love the film regardless but it’s becoming more like doing a Where’s Wally instead of watching a film. There can be no denying that Marvels films have become more than a little predictable of late. An underwritten big bad threatens the world and the good guy/guys have to save the day, probably involving something huge crashing to the ground. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a system that has worked for them and gives the audience everything they want from a superhero film. However, with the arrival of Phase 3 this year it was definitely the time to see something different. That started subtly with Civil War where we saw the good guys facing off against each other for a huge showdown. It wasn’t everything we hoped it would be but you can see that it’s starting to break the mould. The problem is that the formula is safe and adaptable enough for different themes, heroes, and genres. Marvel don’t want to risk losing fans when they know what works.

Which is why Doctor Strange always seemed like a massive risk. Of course, there are always anomalies and Marvel are always keen to take on a project that breaks the pattern. In 2015 Ant-Man took us away from the big time heroes like the Avengers and gave us a smaller tale that became more like a crime caper. Problems behind the scenes meant this was full of issues but it showed that there was room for different think. Like Ant Man, the story of Stephen Strange wasn’t one of the most widely known outside of comic book circles and wasn’t necessarily going to fit into the existing MCU. I mean, the minute you introduce magic into the world of superheroes then everything changes. Power is no longer measurable on a normal scale: this isn’t just about size and physical strength. Magic widens the limits of the possibility and means the rule book just got blown up. It could very easily have fucked up everything Marvel films has been doing over the last 10 years.

So Doctor Strange had a huge job to do: it needed to introduce us to its newest hero and explain the world of magic. It’s a big task that fills the 2 hour running time. Although, the first act is rather slow to get us anywhere. We first meet the egotistical but brilliant brain surgeon, Stephen Strange, who gets into a car accident that destroys his career. He’s helpless and desperate to get back to what he once was. If I’m honest, the first 30 minutes of this film was basically just an episode of House with Benedict Cumberbatch taking Hugh Laurie’s place as British actor playing a doctor who’s also a huge dick. I get that we needed to see why Strange was so desperate to get the use of his hands back but it all felt a bit too much like a parody.

When all hope looks lost, Stephen is directed to Nepal and a mysterious group of people who helped supposedly heal a man who couldn’t walk. Stephen meets the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) who allows him to see the hidden dimensions that have remained hidden and sets him on a journey to learn to use magic for himself. As he learns, Strange learns that, as well as all the wonders he never knew about, there is untold danger within these different dimensions that constantly threaten humanity. It is up to Ancient One and her sorcerers to keep darkness away from the Earth. Darkness that is being summoned by her ex-student, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen), to destroy humanity. Its up to Stephen, his mentor, Karl Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and librarian Wong (Benedict Wong), to stop him.

There is a lot to take in when you watch Doctor Strange and the typical format of a Marvel film isn’t really the best place to try something so new. I mean Thor had to introduce much less than this and it had a hard time teaching the audience about Norse mythology whilst also leaving enough time for fighting. Doctor Strange only just manages to keep a handle on everything it’s trying to do and manages to introduce magic to the MCU in a really trippy and awesome way. When Stephen first meets the Ancient One, she sends him on a journey through dimensions that will definitely give a few hippies some 60s flashbacks. It’s a visual feast and is an incredible film to watch. The many out-of-body experiences and crazy architectural remodelling bring a new freshness to the usual superhero film. This manages to feel like every other Marvel film but, in so many ways, is something completely new.

Although, that isn’t to say it comes without its problems. Benedict Cumberbatch is remarkable in the title role as is Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One. Both are reliable actors who enjoy playing the outcasts of society and so they are well suited to the roles. The rest of the cast are more forgettable. Rachel McAdams is given especially short shrift as fellow doctor and love interest, Christine Palmer. Chiwetel Ejiofor, whilst setting up his role for the next instalment, makes a limited impression and the always delightful Mads Mikkelsen finds himself in the role of another underdeveloped Marvel villain. The main two aside, it is only Benedict Wong who makes any kind of lasting impression and that has little to do with the script.

Doctor Strange is a good film; it’s a very good film. I was super excited to see it and I was incredibly happy afterwards. However, it would be wrong to say that this is the turning point for Marvel. It is a fresh and new film in the midst of every other punch ’em up superhero film but, really, it’s still the same old Marvel underneath. Every time it looks as if a storyline is being allowed a modicum of freedom then its pulled back in. Despite the new ideas at play, this is the same structure as every other Marvel origin story and has the same flaws we are sick of seeing. It shows great potential for the future but Marvel really need to start giving their writers and directors more freedom. It was so close to perfection.

TBT – Daredevil Season 1 Episode 1

TBT – Daredevil Season 1 Episode 1

I realise I’m super far behind the times with getting around to this series but I’m nothing if not unusual. Friends have been telling me to watch this for ages but I just never did. Of course, after watching the fucking awesome Jessica Jones and being so close to Luke Cage day, it seemed like now was the perfect time to start it. I mean when it comes down to it the only thing that was really holding me back was the dreadful Daredevil film from 2003. You know the super shitty one Ben Affleck made before he became a worthwhile member of Hollywood. Yes, I know it’s been a while but the memory still sticks. Get over it, you cry. I understand. It’s a silly thing to be so upset about but there was no need for it to be quite so bad. Of course, it’s going to look extra silly next to the films of the Golden Age of Marvel but even back then it was fucking embarrassing. Now I’m not trying to claim I’m the biggest of Daredevil fans but there always seemed to be so much potential there. I mean he’s blind for fuck’s sake. A blind superhero. How can any mess that up? So, even though I knew the odds for the Netflix series were good I couldn’t help but have my doubts.

Obviously, now I’ve watched the first couple of episodes I realise how stupid I was. Daredevil is absolutely amazing. It’s gritty, dark and highly relevant. I realise Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are going down a similar route but this really took a massive step away from the Marvel we’re used to. Even Agents of Shield didn’t go this far away from the films we were used to. This is Marvel having their Christopher Nolan moment. Once you take away the inherent “super” element that comes with the territory, Daredevil is very real. It doesn’t deal with a superhero making a stand against some crazy, evil force. It’s about a man who is taking a stand against the awful things going on his city. It’s real people doing the kind of things awful real people tend to do. It’s great.

The first episode is, by the nature of an opening episode, it kind of tame and very introductory. We have the expected origin story of Matt Murdock and the moment a young boy lost his sight. It’s clear Matt was a hero from the start as he got into his accident saving a man from an oncoming car. As he grows up Matt turns to the law to dole out social justice during daylight hours before donning a black mask and doling out much more violent justice once the sun has gone down. We see the public face of Matt and his secret identity. The way he uses one to help the other.

Throughout the first episode we see flashbacks to Matt’s childhood with his father, boxer Jack Murdock. Jack is the reason Matt can fight and the reason he took the path of cleaning the streets. These flashbacks are handled really well and fit well within the main story. Normally I’m against this kind of cheap narrative trick but it’s handled so well that I didn’t even flinch. Hell, I’m also kind of hoping for a spin-off that shows more of Matt’s life with Jack. They’re a good team. Still, like every good hero Matt needed a reason to take up the mask and it is only through Jack’s death that Daredevil can be born.

Still, we have a bit of a way to go yet. For now he’s just a nameless vigilante targeting a gang of human traffickers. The opening fight scene is absolutely remarkable. The way they handle the fight scenes and Daredevil’s enhanced senses. It’s also nowhere near as bloody as I was expecting. The way my manager described it when it first came out I was thinking it would be more like Quentin Tarantino. Of course, in an age where Deadpool is redefining superheroes, this is rather tame.

The greatest thing about Marvel teaming up with Netflix is getting more freedom. Agents of Shield suffered because it had to fit the regulations. There is more scope here and greater room to have fun. This series is amazingly well made and superbly cast. It’s no wonder there are so many great Marvel series coming to Netflix in the near future. This is the one that gave us Jessica Jones. It set the trend. I hate to admit that I was wrong about this but I really wish I’d started this sooner.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Luke Cage Streets Trailer

Tuesday’s Reviews – Luke Cage Streets Trailer

So I’ve decided to forgo my usual Tuesday review in honour of Netflix’s latest Luke Cage trailer. With only a matter of days before the first series of Marvel’s latest television series kicks off on Friday, we have been offered another trailer showing us what to expect from the series that we’ve all been waiting impatiently for. This may seem like something of a cop out, and in a sense it is, but I can’t help it. I’m really fucking excited about this show. Luke Cage was the best thing to come out of Jessica Jones (David Tennant aside obviously) and Mike Colter was just perfect as the bullet proof barman. Let’s all be honest, as great as I think Kristen Ritter’s performance was, Jessica herself is kind of irritating. The whole troubled past, drunk thing just didn’t get me. She was too self-righteous and holier than though in a way only rivalled by Buffy Summers. The whole ‘I can do this without help from anyone ever” thing is just dull. Accept help. It worked for the fucking Avengers. Despite this, her brief relationship with Luke was fantastic and it was a massive shame when he left the scene. It was a long wait for this series.. and I say that as someone who only watched it a matter of months ago. God help all the people who watched the series when it first came out.

So the latest trailer for Luke Cage shows us a lot of stuff we’ve seen before but, crucially, it really introduces us to some key characters. We get a better look at the people Luke will be fighting against for most of the series. We see more of the gangster Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes (Mahershala Ali) and his cousin Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard), a local politician. Both of these antagonists look as though they’ll easily hold their own against the villains of Netflix and Marvel’s established shows. Cottonmouth is classic gangster who wants to control everything and uses strength and power to get it. He doesn’t care who he hurts and thinks he’s unstoppable. Dillard looks complex and her position as politician will only be complicated by her relationship with her cousin.

The series is setting out to be more of a Western with a lone hero trying to save his town from the bad guy. It looks really bloody exciting. After all, if there’s one thing the trailer continues to highlight it’s that Luke Cage will be non-stop action and violence. There is plenty of gunfire, punching and, threatening to keep everyone entertained. Luke is a phenomenal character who deals with a super abilities that he doesn’t want to help people who need him. He’s a normal guy who comes home to find his hometown is going to shit. He is the only person who is really in a position to stop it.

The trailer also gives us a closer look at the people who will help Luke change his town. Rosasrio Dawson reprises her Daredevil and Jessica Jones role of Nurse, Claire who helps Luke realise who he could be. We also see Luke getting advice and encouragement from Misty Knight (Simone Missick), a local police detective who is interested in Cage. These are the people who will help Luke become the hero that he is destined to be whether he likes it or not.

Ultimately, Luke Cage looks like a fantastic addition to the Marvel/Netflix catalogue. It feels more political in nature to the previous offerings and adds great social insight. Showrunner Cheo Coker is keen to point out the connection between the show and classic hip hop and continually subverts racial stereotypes. Luke’s outfit of choice is a hoodie which he wears as he smashes expectations of young,, black men causing trouble. Luke Cage isn’t just the show we’ve all been waiting for; it’s the show we all need to see. It has an important message, is thrilling and still has time for jokes. The trailer’s cameo appearance from Method Man is unexpected and a great moment in the middle of the action. Luke Cage respects the classic character but updates him into a familiar world. It’s real but empowering. I can’t bloody wait. Is it Friday yet?

TBT – Batman (1989)

TBT – Batman (1989)

Everyone has their favourite incarnation of Bruce Wayne. After this years Batman vs Superman some may well say Batffleck is their number one and even I have to admit that he was ABS-olutely fantastic in the role. Then there are those fucking idiots that will say Christian Bale is the top dog. However, that just goes to prove that people are easily pleased and that Christopher Nolan can make anyone look better than they are. There’s a reason that Heath Ledger is the main thing people talk about when they discuss the Dark Knight trilogy: Christian Bale is so forgettable in the role the supporting characters outshine him. I also imagine, because human beings continue to surprise me, that there are those who prefer the nippley George Clooney and Val Kilmer. Of course, we all know that they are probably mentally unstable or have only seen Joel Schumacher’s two films. Now when it comes to the ultimate Batman there can only be one real winner. Yes, my favourite and, by association, the Number 1 big screen portrayal of Gotham’s vigilante is Michael Keaton. Tim Burton’s Batman and the slightly superior Batman Returns are just amazing. Which is why I’m going to talk about the first of them this week.

We owe a lot to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film. Let’s be honest, before that came along the caped crusader was best known as the homoerotic and super cartoony Adam West version. You know the colourful chap who hung about with a boy in super tight and super tiny shorts. It was Tim Burton and co. who let the world see a darker and more serious version of the hero who would only get darker and more serious as the years went by. It came out during a time when the likes of Frank Miller and Alan Moore were taking part in a graphic novel overhaul for the character and bringing him into a grittier world than he was used to. However, when it came to those outside of comic book circles, Batman was still that camp 1960s show that was something to laugh and cringe along with. Which is why, when it was announced that 1980s comic actor Michael Keaton was to take the role comic book fans were filled with such a murderous rage. It seemed like Burton was taking a step backwards.

Of course, as we know now, that all changed when the film was released. Tim Burton brought his Gothic edge to the world of Batman and showed the world a different side to the infamous vigilante. We open on a version of Gotham that is in the middle of an economic and social downturn. Things are difficult for the people of the city and crime is taking over. This isn’t the 1960s circus town that we were used to. Batman was angry and covered in black, Robin was nowhere to be seen, and the Joker was leaving bodies in his wake. Suffice it to day, this wasn’t the Batman that cinema goers were used to. This was a version of the hero that spoke about the decade in which he appeared and the story spoke of the troubles that many saw facing society at the time.

As such, the film is less about Batman than it is about aesthetics and socio-political messages. The story doesn’t really follow the comics and there are several infamous moments that have infuriated comic book fans for years. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not a good film. There is something great about this film, which is probably helped by the fact the superhero wasn’t the main focus. There is something very real about the whole thing and the classic fairy tale narrative of good vs evil is timeless in a way that perhaps Christopher Nolan’s works aren’t. This isn’t the story of who Batman is or why he decided to dress up as a bat one day. It is the story of an ordinary man fighting against the great evils that are plaguing society. It speaks to everyone.

Now, I’d be lying if I said this film was perfect because it isn’t. There are several things that could be better and a handful of subplots that could be dispensed with entirely. The Vikki Vale/Joker connection seemed tacked on and the Prince soundtrack does kind of feel out-of-place. Still, there is a great deal to love about this film. It comes down to the basic principle of good vs evil but explores the idea further by revealing that the Joker was the person who killed Batman’s parents. In this sense, the Joker created Batman and Batman helped create a world where the Joker could thrive. This isn’t just a fight but a reciprocal relationship. It’s a revelation that won’t please comic fans in the slightest but is something I have also felt to be a fascinating twist to the tale.

Batman set out a solid environment for the further growth of the hero and his desire to save his city.  It paved the way for the better film Batman Returns 3 years later whilst still being a great film in its own right. It was basically the X-Men of it’s day.  Yes it doesn’t boast the best narrative or script of the many adaptations that have appeared since but it gave us a truly inspirational portrayal of the man behind the mask. Michael Keaton is fantastic in the role and, despite existing in a world full of action heroes like Sylvester Stallone and Arnie, genuinely looks like a playboy who suddenly decided to fight crime. I also happen to prefer Jack Nicholson’s Joker. I know that’s probably one of the most controversial things I’ve ever said on this blog (and there’s been a few) but it’s true. Yes, he may seem quaint and camp when compared to Heath Ledger but he inhabits everything that I understood about the Joker. He’s crazy and homicidal but he also just wants to have fun. Something that Tim Burton and co. are also happy to do in the midst of all the death and despair. This film doesn’t deserve to be overshadowed by more modern adaptations. It’s too fucking good.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

Tuesday’s Reviews – Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice

I really don’t want to write this review. I’ve sat with it open ever since I got home from work and I’ve not managed to come up with anything. If I’m honest, I never actually wanted to watch this fucking film. I mean Man of Steel was just dreadful and proved that Zac Snyder really should have called it quits on comic book movies after Watchmen was only hated by a handful of people. Those of you who were around at the time of my review of the first of Snyder’s Superman films will remember that, aside from it being badly written and really fucking long, it wasn’t exactly complimentary. I just didn’t get Snyder’s vision for the most popular alien in the DCEU. Still, those photos of Ben Affleck looking super buff got me interested and I finally decided it was time to watch it. I was a big fan of the Batffleck before watching this film so it would be just like Snyder to fuck that up for me too. I decided it was right to watch the Ultimate Edition and, after a gruelling day at work, I sat down for a gruelling 3 hours of muted tones, smack you in the face symbolism, and terrible parts for women. Classic Snyds.

So Batman vs Superman was one of the most anticipated films of 2016 because it would show the first movie meeting of DC’s two biggest male superheroes. It promised the fight of comic book geeks’ fantasies and would pit the square jaw of Henry Cavill against the rockhard abs of Ben Affleck. Plus, it would introduce the world to Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, Jason Momoa’s Aquaman, Ezra Miller’s The Flash, and Ray Fisher’s Cyborg. After all, Batman vs Superman was just the warm up to next years Justice League movie. Kind of like Captain America and Thor were just whetting the audiences’ appetites before The Avengers came out… but with added good guy fighting. As long as the two titans both got into some sort of homoerotic penis comparison using their fists. Forget a good narrative or sensible structure, that’s what the fanboys really want.
Aside from giving us something in the way of the fight the title offers, there isn’t that much to celebrate in Batman vs Superman. The little there is in the way of story is all over the fucking place and is stitched together so weirdly is difficult to keep up. After all, pesky things like plot and character development only get in the way of large men fucking shit up. This is the kind of film where the ‘wakes up panting and realising it was a dream” thing isn’t a massive Hollywood cliché but a handy-dandy way to get out of a tricky narrative bind. Really it feels like Snyder filmed the fight scenes and then realised he needed someway to glue them together and hastily put some shit together.
One of my favourite reviews for this film described it as “a grown man whacking two dolls together”, which it essentially is. This is Zac Snyder acting out the games he played with his action figures as a child but with a fucking huge budget, special effects, and some crazily beefed men to help him. It’s action porn for those creepy little fanboys who left this film feeling that Gal Gadot’s outfit just wasn’t revealing enough. There is so much wanton destruction here that it leaves little room for actual film stuff. There is no attempt to create a coherent story or develop characters. Everyone is either dark and brooding, evil and brooding, or happy yet brooding. There are so many needless plot twists here that Snyder quickly loses control of the strands and just ties bits together whenever he regains his grasp. The editing does little to help with the confusion and the endless time jumps, flashbacks/forwards, and dream sequences are handled incredibly badly.
Batman vs Superman doesn’t even have the good sense to have a good sense of humour about itself. It’s entirely humourless and any attempts at comedy fall flat and stick out like a sore thumb. It just feels wrong and completely out-of-place: like making jokes at a funeral. This is perhaps the most serious blockbuster about such a stupid topic that has ever existed. You wouldn’t have thought it possible after the dour Man of Steel but Snyder has upped the darkness. By this, of course, I mean he’s got rid of the lighting and literally made everything darker. There is plenty of shadows to show you that evil shit is going down and more than enough close-ups and shaky cam to try to amp up the excitement. Then there’s the endless fucking lens flares. What is this? A fucking JJ Abrams Star Trek movie? One of the notes I wrote whilst watching this just reads “how can something be both dark and light at the same time?” because there is so much light in such a lightless environment. It’s all just ridiculous. This is a film that is all about the visual that it just feels silly. It’s like people who are too into fashion: they’re so much about style over substance that you just can’t take them seriously anymore.
There are a couple of things to love here: Ben Affleck is as good as I’d hoped as Bruce Wayne and I can’t wait to see his solo effort. I don’t think we really needed ANOTHER origin story but this was essentially Batman’s film. Not the greatest thing in a Superman flick but I’ll never complain about more Batffleck. Joining Ben on my list of good things about Dawn of Justice is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. She’s a great addition to the cast even though she really didn’t get any chance to tell her story. Then again, in this environment, maybe that actually helped her. Finally, there’s Jeremy Irons as Alfred. This Alfred isn’t the stuffy, wise butler we’re used to but is a hands on kind of guy. He’ll chop your wood, fix you gadgets, and listen in on your secret conversations. I think this could be a great partnership.
And that’s it. The only good things I can think of about this film. Lois Lane (Amy Adams) and, let’s face it, every other woman barely get a look in and exist only to get themselves into a position they need saving from. Lex Luthor is just every other Jesse Eisenberg character we’ve ever seen but with access to a spaceship. The brief glimpses of the other member of the Justice League are just absurd and completely unnecessary from anything but a marketing point of view.  The script is awful: I’m still cringing over Holly Hunter’s peach tea speech. Too much terrible and unsubtle symbolism. Too many failed attempts at religious metaphors. And just too many twists to keep dragging things out. I’m so angry that I ever wasted my time on this shit. It should have been amazing. It could have been fun. I mean imagine what could have happened if these characters were in the MCU. It would have been unbelievable. Yes, it would have ended with something crashing to Earth at the end but it would have been wonderful. Dawn of Justice had so much potential but it just fucked us all. Zac Snyder basically pissed all over our dreams and then probably cut to us waking up panting and sweating.