By Chris Campo
"Oh my God! Holy shit! We are mere months away from finally seeing the brand new Spider-Man". You may think that is somebody anticipating Spider-Man's appearance in Captain America: Civil War later this year, but no, while I am losing my mind over Tom Holland's eventual Spidey debut, this was what was going through my mind nearly 5 years ago when The Amazing Spider-Man was almost upon us. While I absolutely loved *most of* the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films, I was insanely excited to witness a new Peter Parker, a new villain, a new love interest, a new Spider-man and, most importantly, a new story. Words could not truly express my excitement. While the film got haters from its initial announcement, I knew we were going to get an exciting, well made and totally original film... I was partially right.
The Amazing Spider-Man tells the "untold" story of Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield). After being abandoned by his parents to live with his Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen), Peter is determined to find the truth about his parents and their work, and is also determined to find his place in this world. Things start to change when he gains the friendship of his high school crush, Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), and the help of his parent's former co-worker, Dr. Connors (Rhys Ifans). Fueled by his newly discovered powers, the death of his uncle, the ill intentions of Dr. Connors and the safety of his loved ones, Peter makes a choice to dawn a red and blue costume to become the vigilante known as Spider-Man.
I like The Amazing Spider-Man. I may even be confident enough to say that I love it. But there's a catch... This film hits a lot of high notes, but its voice tends to crack under the pressure of trying to stand out from the Spider-Man origin story that came before it. There's times where the story, especially in the first act, hits the same exact beats as the original film. Maybe its played out a little differently, but its too similar. The film tries to stand confidently as "The Untold Story" of Spider-Man, but the "untold" portion of this story, Parker's parents, just seems like a crutch to get the story past the same-ness as the original film. This is a shame because the rest of the film swings fairly high, but it's impossible to fairly critique this film without pointing out the elephant in the room. This film feels largely unnecessary, when it really shouldn't be.
Now that that is said, what about the actual film on it's own, disregarding the fact that it's a reboot or remake or whatever Hollywood wants to call it, is it any good? Yes. I think it is. There are flaws, some big, but I think this is a fun and, at times, exciting film with a huge heart that often takes centre stage. The film treats the character with love and respect, the action is exhilarating, the dialogue is quriky and memorable, Mark Webb directs this film with the confidence and personality he brought to the spunky and brilliant (500) Days of Summer and it translates very well to the summer blockbuster formula. If this film doesn't please Spider-Man fans in some way, shape or form, I don't think they're really Spider-man fans. Oh, and it has the best Stan Lee cameo to date.
Andrew Garfield, who plays Peter/Spidey, is sensational, completely different to the other films. He's a tad bit too cool for my taste, but he feels real, relatable and damaged, although the real magic comes when he puts on the mask. While I really hate the mask and the stupid yellow eyes, Garfield gives us the most convincing and well realised Spider-Man to date. Balancing Garfield is one hell of an amazing supporting cast. Emma Stone is pitch perfect as Gwen Stacey and her relationship with Peter is a highlight of the film. She's a strong, intelligent and necessary character to the story that never feels as lazy or as helpless as Mary Jane in the originals. While I have problems with the villain, the Lizard, which I'll get to soon, Rhys Ifans' performance is nothing to overlook, he did the absolute best with what he was given. Both Sally Field and Martin Sheen are great as May and Ben, although nothing, and I mean nothing, will ever top Uncle Ben's "with great power comes great responsibility" speech from the original. I'm also a big fan of Captain Stacey in this film, Dennis Leary plays him perfectly and his dynamic between both his daughter Gwen and Peter is fun and just really works well.
The best part of this film is the amount of heart in it. It's a bit darker than previous films, but manages to be emotionally charged, ready to warm your heart and prepared to break it. Most of the action is emotionally charged as well, which is something I really appreciate. The final set piece is big and blockbuster-esque, but its biggest moments are the human moments, particularly some in the final act. The crane scene is among my favorite moments in all 5 Spider-Man films, it's a crowd pleasing sequence that I absolutely adore. The death of Uncle Ben is beautifully handled, and you're lying if you didn't get at least one tear in your eye when Peter listens to his voicemail at the end of the film, it's powerful stuff. Spider-Man is known to be one of the most emotionally charged characters in comic books and this film captured that perfectly. Also, the score by the late James Horner only adds to the emotion, as his work in this film is simply beautiful.
You cant have rainbows without a storm, however, as this film has a lot of problems. As mentioned before, the first act is sloppy and not that justified, the untold story portion of this movie goes absolutely nowhere and there's a sub plot involving Uncle Ben that the screenwriters literally didn't bother finishing. The pacing is also not the best, as there's a lot of slow downtime. If I'm being completely honest, I hate the Lizard. His setup is initially interesting and you start to feel for him, then at the drop of a hat he suddenly becomes a mad scientist, with no good explanation. He's not the worst villain ever, but he just does not do it for me. The CGI on his character is only passable at best. As mentioned before, I am not the biggest fan of the new Spider-Man costume, I hate the yellow eyes and the overall design just doesn't pop like a Spider-Man costume should. Here and there are tone-breaking moments or gags that feel like they'd be in the original 2002 film, and none of them quite work, like when Peter is sitting on the bleachers and catches a football only to through it as hard as you can bending the post you hit. Yeah, if I saw that, I would go ahead and assume you're Spider-Man.
Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man is a fun film with great characters and a huge heart. I can confidently say I love it, but can not confidently say its a great movie. It can be a mixed bag at times, with not everything flowing as smoothly as one may hope, especially in its underwhelming and copy-cat first act. It also had potential to spawn a truly special franchise... then the sequel happened.
By Jack Dignan
It's "the greatest gladiator match in the history of the world. Son of Krypton vs Bat of Gotham," as says Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor in the second film of DC's cinematic universe. It began three years ago with Man of Steel, the Superman (Henry Cavill) origin story that sparked more controversy than most people expected, including myself, and now, the Man of Steel is met with his greatest foe, Batman (Ben Affleck), making this the first time the two characters have been seen on screen together in live action. It should be monumental, but is it? In my opinion, and I'm well aware that the primary consensus is that I'm wrong, it is.
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice begins during the final moments of Man of Steel, General Zod (Michael Shannon) and Superman (Cavill) wrecking havoc all across Metropolis. There's a lot of collateral damage, to say the least. Amongst the destruction, we focus in on billionaire Bruce Wayne (Affleck), who just so happens to own a building that's been destroyed, killing a close friend of his. Cut forward two years. Superman is a figure of controversy, much like his last movie, and is being put up for trial, being held responsible for a series of murders. Batman has just about had enough of Superman's actions, and after an unexpected disaster for which Superman is once again blamed for, Batman takes actions into his own hands, facing up against Superman in a one on one battle.
I'm not hating on DC, but I have to state the facts. They're well behind Marvel. Marvel has had an established film series up and running for a number of years now, spanning a shared universe over twelve movies and a few TV shows. They're undoubtably on top of things, and DC is only just beginning. Man of Steel opened to mix reviews, people disappointed it wasn't on the same level as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, which only came to a conclusion one year earlier. Personally, I enjoy the movie. I've seen it a number of times and believe it to be a flawed, but entertaining film. I have a similar opinion on Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. It's a flawed film, and I will get into these flaws later, but I enjoyed it. A lot. In fact, it was sort of amazing.
Right off the bat, I will just say that the performances in this film are unreal. Henry Cavill once again proves himself to be the ultimate Superman, easily worthy of justifiable comparisons to Christopher Reeve. The thing is, he's not the stand out actor here. Don't get me wrong, the guy gave a great performance, but it's Ben Affleck who really steals the show as Batman/Bruce Wayne, nailing both personas and providing us with the best parts of the movie. His Bruce is flawed and old, whereas his Batman is brutal and unforgiving, branding his victims with a bat signal. He means business, and he gets shit done. He is, and I'll apologise to all Christian Bale fans now, the perfect Batman. He's not in a perfect movie, but he's perfectly cast. When I look at him, I see Batman. Not once since watching the movie have I even thought about Daredevil until mentioning it just now.
The two may give great solo performances, but when put together, there's nothing stopping them. This is our first look at the DC cinematic universe actually coming together, and when these two were on screen at the same time, I couldn't help but get giddy. It's something straight out of a comic book, the film full of homages and scenes from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, one of the most famous Batman stories of all time. Whether they're Bruce and Clark or Superman and Batman, their scenes together are unforgettable, and if this is just a taste of what DC has to offer in future films, count me in.
It moves at a slow pace, but it doesn't drag. It's light on action for the first hour or so, but it deals with the politics of superheroes and the aftermath of their giant battles, and it works. The dialogue by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer is powerful and piercing, the delivery of all the lines really hitting hard, and when the action goes down, boy does it go down. Batman is relentless, and as the film progresses, his anger continues to grow, so when we finally get to see the two confront each other, which occurs later than you'd expect and finishes sooner than you want, it's insanely cool. Batman shouldn't be a character that can beat Superman, but he proves himself to be a worthy opponent, even if I wanted the fight to be a little bit longer.
The thing is, this film isn't just called Batman V Superman. It's called Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice. There's two separate components to this film, the first being the Batman V Superman part, and the second being the Dawn of Justice part, referring to the Justice League. While the first part is action packed and exciting, it's this second part that made me fall in love with this movie. As seen in the second trailer, Batman and Superman are forced to take on Doomsday, a creature created by Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) to target and destroy Superman. But he can't take it alone, and this is where we get our first look at Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), and just like Affleck, Gadot is the perfect casting. Many fans critiqued her physical physique after hearing she was cast, saying she was too skinny, but when you see her in action, she's damn good.
All of the action is fun, and somewhat less destructive than it was in Man of Steel, but it's what it leads up to that is most exciting. Obviously, I won't delve into spoilers in this review, but I will say that you're in for an emotionally driven finale that's powerful and went places I didn't think it would go. It's a solid ending that leaves things open for future films, but it's not without flaw. Like many epics before it, most famously The Lord of the Rings, Batman V Superman falls into the trap of ending a few too many times. There were about four different moments that could've worked as the very final shot of the film, but didn't. It just kept going and going and going to the point of exhaustion. It overstayed its welcome.
On top of that, there's also a few too many pointless moments in this film, resulting in a runtime that, while not necessarily too long, didn't exactly need to be as long as it was. Now, I'm not saying I was bored or I wanted it to be shorter. Heck, I'm keen for the three hour long director's cut on the blu-ray. What I am saying is that a lot of the scenes, while entertaining, aren't relevant to anything. Again, I won't get into spoilers, but I will say that the nightmare scene shown in the trailers, featuring Batman and Superman in some sort of an apocalypse, plays no importance whatsoever. It was a cool scene, but it was completely irrelevant, and so many scenes are like that in this movie, especially in the first hour. Everything tightens up after that.
There are scenes that are irrelevant, and then there are scenes that are just forced into the movie for the sake of forcing it in. Whether it's a Justice League tease or an "important" subplot, there are plenty of moments that just don't work, especially the appearance of Aquaman, which has been hyped up ever since Zack Snyder posted a picture of Jason Momoa in costume on twitter. We were promised Aquaman, but what we got was 5 seconds of pointlessness, and that's not the only moment like that, either. Again, I obviously won't spoil a thing, but the whole sequence involving Aquaman was so unbelievably lazy. I was irritated, that's for sure.
With positives and negatives out of the way, this only leaves me with one more thing to discuss.... Jesse Eisenberg. His persona from the trailers wasn't the Lex Luthor from the comics. He donned the name Lex Luthor, but he didn't feel.... right. This isn't to say I disliked him, I just didn't think he was the character I know and love. I was hoping the film would pull the rug out from under me and Eisenberg would show a truly dark side. I was wrong. He's exactly what you see in the trailer, except with a lot more anxiety. He's a nervous and unconfident person and while that could make for a compelling villain, in this case, it doesn't. If we wasn't named Lex Luthor, maybe I'd like him a bit more than I did, although again, I didn't necessarily dislike him either. I'm just conflicted.
To sum up, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice is far from a perfect movie. It tries to put in more stuff than it needs and it ends way too many times, but the action is intense, the performances are unreal and the finale is emotional and powerful.
By Liam Alexander
Here we are, the official start of the new DC Cinematic Universe. Warner Bros realised that Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy was going to have to be its own thing. A good move on their behalf, and where better to start their new universe than with the last son of Krypton, Superman. After a failed attempt with Superman Returns (aka a try hard love letter), this was the time to get the character right, to bring superman into the modern world with the help of visionary, Zack Snyder, the man behind Watchmen and 300.
Man of Steel holds a very special place in my heart; it’s actually somewhat nostalgic for me in a way. I am a huge DC comics fan and have been for a while. I love the DC world so, so much, and the trailers for Man of Steel honestly were/and still are some of my favourites ever. I had never been so hyped for a film in my entire life (until Batman v Superman came around) when I was stepping into the cinema to watch Man of Steel. One of the strange ways I judge some films is by goosebumps and chills. If a film can give me a lot of goosebumps, it must be pretty darn good (seriously, I’ll get goosebumps whenever I see moments of great direction, acting, story, music, in any kind of film), and boy did Man of Steel give me goosebumps the first time I watched it. I left the theatre in a state of ecstasy, I just saw a glimpse of the DC universe I know and love put up on screen. I was beyond the moon and also slightly blinded by my sheer love for DC. Each of the over 10 time’s after that, I started to notice some of the flaws in the film, and I do acknowledge and have complaints about some aspects of the film, and I now think I have a pretty good, less unbiased view on it. Lets talk about it!
Man of Steel is the origin story of Kal El (Henry Cavill) or as us humans like to call him, Clark Kent. We follow Clark’s escape from his dying planet Krypton, cutting in and out of his life growing up with Ma (Diane Lane) and Pa Kent (Kevin Costner) out on the farm. It’s not until Zod (Michael Shannon) and his followers show up to earth in the hope of turning it into another Krypton, that Clark must become the man he was meant to be…SUPERMAN.
Henry Cavill as Superman was just a damn great casting choice because he, honestly, is without a doubt the best superman we have had since Christopher Reeve, and for me, he might be even better. We’ll have to see how he continues growing into the character, but in thid film he is really great. He pulls off the Clark Kent, the guy who is afraid and trying to find his place in the world, while also playing the Superman part extremely well. He is Superman for me at this point. Russell Crowe as Jor El is one of the first characters we are introduced to and he grabs us right away, his undying love and adoration for his son is seen, and his scenes on Krypton were something we had never seen before. I found them to be fantastic world building. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner as Ma and Pa Kent are some of the best aspects of the film, as well. They play the caring mother and father of this alien so darn well, Costner being especially great in the flashback scenes involving young, lost, Clark.
Other supporting characters include Amy Adams as Lois Lane. She plays Lois in a new and fresh way, she’s always looking for answers and never afraid to get them. Michael Shannon as General Zod is also a great casting, as he plays the menacing bad guy quite well, but plays the general, who just wants the best for his people, even better. Some of his dialogue can come off a bit expositional at times. There’s a bit too much tell, not enough show, but he does a great job and is quite memorable in the role considering some of the dialogue material he was working with.
The fractured storytelling makes the origin story refreshing and engaging, immediately separating itself from past Superman movies. The sequences of Clark growing up and trying to find himself in the world, his loneliness and isolation are all extremely well done and make Superman a complex and relatable hero. Even though he can do all these amazing feats and has extraordinary powers, he was brought up as human as possible in Smallville, Kansas. He wasn’t treated like a God, he has had humanity imprinted on him from the beginning and therefore he has human flaws and feelings.
One of my favourite moments in the entire film is Superman’s first flight. I think the visuals, its significance to the story and the sound all come together to create a scene that shows off his amazing abilities, while also, again, showing his humanity. He’s laughing and smiling like any other person would be if they just found out they could freaking fly. The sound booms are just awesome to look at as well! However, my hands down favourite scene in the entire film is when Superman blows up the world engine. It is such an incredibly inspiring moment, he’s been beaten down, but he rises to the challenge and as his fellow humans are being wiped out, he lifts himself up, the weight of humanity on his shoulders, and you can see for one frame Christopher Reeves face transition onto Cavill’s as he flies up and destroys the world engine, it is incredibly powerful and is so… Superman.
As always, I have to talk about Hans Zimmer’s music in the film. It has been one of my favourite soundtracks since I saw the film. It’s so inspiring, epic and emotionally charged. It was always going to be hard following up John Williams iconic tune, but Hans brings a new level emotion to the soundtrack and elevates the movie. Some of my favourite tracks are Goodbye My Son, Terraforming, What Are You Going To Do When You Are Not Saving The World and Flight.
Now, let’s talk about the Zod neck snap. I don’t see any problem whatsoever with it. People complained that Superman would never do such a thing, but if he didn’t, what would that make him? A family killer? Zod put Kal in a terrible situation, and against all of Superman’s pleas for him to stop, Zod continues in his attempt to murder the family, sticking true to his determination to wipe humanity out and leaving Supes no choice. The neck must be snapped. It’s not like Superman liked doing it either, he screams in agony after at his action, not only because he just murdered someone, but because that someone was the last known person of his race. I think it’s a ballsy move by the writers and director and it definitely paid off, adding another dimension all together to the character.
Whilst the final fight between Zod and Supes, I think, is incredibly awesome, powerful and emotional, the over reliance on CGI is apparent and can make it seem very repetitive at times. There in lies one of my major problems with the film, the final fight would be so much more effective if there was more breathing space in the final hour. Man of Steel just needed some moments of slowing down and focusing on characters in the final hour. From the fight in Smallville to the end, it’s just non stop action, and it does get tiresome on the viewer. Although, the final fight is about 10x more awesome now that we know Bruce was watching the entire time. I love it how Batman V Superman is actually making Man of Steel better!
David S Goyer is a bit of a problem with the film as well, as some of his dialogue is just…not great. It’s expositional and very tell with no show. That paired with Zack Snyder’s more visual oriented way of filmmaking is not the best mix, and can lead to some moments of style over substance. Also, this is a bit of a side note WTF rant at Goyer’s writing, but Pa Kent’s death is so fucking stupid, like seriously, why would he run back to this tornado just to save a dog. I love dogs, but come on, no one does that, and Clark just stands there watching it happen. Hmmm. No.
The cinematography can be extremely beautiful at times, and I think Zack Snyder’s directorial vision is superb. He has a great visual eye. But the cinematography in Man of Steel is not justified, I don’t necessarily like the shaky hand held cam and unmotivated quick zooms with the racking of focus. It makes this 200 Million dollar movie seem a bit cheap, to be completely honest, so I am glad that Snyder has gone back to his fluid Watchmen style in Dawn of Justice. It feels much more cinematic if it isn’t shaking and zooming every 5 seconds.
Man of Steel was a movie that I think was unfairly received, and after repeat viewings I, in no way, think it is a bad movie. It is not a perfect movie whatsoever, but it is no 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. The hate I see it receive on social media still, 3 years after the movie has been released, is astonishing and completely unjustified. It has a bit too much action in the final hour with not enough breathing space, but it is a fantastic introduction and start to the DC cinematic universe. The movie is emotionally charged, has great performances and the action can be gripping. The music is beyond great and it brings the character of Superman into the modern world with great clarity and depth. He ain’t no boy scout.
Also, Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice is just 2 days away! 2 DAYS AWAY. I am so so so excited for the film and am pumped to be bringing to you my thoughts on it and the future of the DCU very soon…such exciting times!!!
By Liam Alexander
We have reached the end of one of the most impactful and important trilogies of the decade, Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment in The Dark Knight trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises. It is now 2012, 4 years after the masterpiece that was ‘The Dark Knight’ graced our screens all the way back in 2008. It’s been a while, and everyone is hyped out of their minds to see how the story ends. The Dark Knight Rises is definitely the most controversial of the trilogy for good and bad reasons, some love it, some like it, and a small majority don’t. But where do I stand? For most of the time…I like this movie…a lot. Lets talk about it!
The film takes place eight years after the Jokers reign of chaos on Gotham and Harvey Dent’s death. I love the opening of the film, there is such strong dramatic irony between the audience and Gordon (Gary Oldman), as he knows the truth of what happened to Harvey and is feeling the guilt for covering it up, we know the truth, but he can’t tell anyone at this eulogy. We get the sense that Gotham is falsely recovering, but darkness still looms heavily over the city and Gordon knows it. Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) is now a recluse after retiring Batman, but a new threat is rising in the form of guerrilla terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy), and there is only one person who can stop him. Batman must return. Quite the set up indeed.
Once again, the returning cast all do there jobs perfectly. Christian Bale is yet again fantastic in the film, and he really is the best (I’m seeing Batman V Superman in 2 days, however, so it could change) Bruce Wayne and Batman we have ever had. Bruce Wayne, the recluse, is all that we see in the first act of the film, he’s broken physically and mentally by his events with the Joker and Harvey Dent, Bale carries it. Gary Oldman as Gordon is superb, possibly at his best in the entire trilogy. Michael Caine as Alfred offers some emotionally strong and heavy hitting moments, especially his conversation with Bruce at the bottom of the stairs.
The newcomers, Joseph Gordon Levitt as John Blake and Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman, both give good supporting performances, although nothing extraordinary, but they both inhabit their characters and do it very well. And then we get to Tom Hardy as Bane. It was always going to be one hell of a tough job following up Heath Ledger as the villain, especially when the last time we had seen Bane the character was in 1998 when he was grunting and repeatedly screaming his name like an absolute moron. Yeah, fuck you, Batman and Robin. That aside, Hardy as Bane is superb, and was really the perfect villain for the film He’s a villain who was physically superior to Batman, while also holding his own in the intellect department. His voice and actions are menacing and, quite honest, scary! Whilst Bane is nowhere near as compelling as the Joker, he is still a good villain for the film.
Nolan again does a great job, his direction is masterful and the film works very well as both a whole piece and an end of an arc. The Dark Knight Rises has some great moments, my favourite being Batman’s first appearance, the scene that gave me major goose bumps the first time I watched it in the cinema, and it still does every time I watch it. Just the combination of the character’s reactions to his return, the audience’s reaction to his return and Hans Zimmer’s now ICONIC Batman theme booming into the moment just make it a stand out scene for me. The football stadium scene is also fantastic, involving it blowing up and the eerie rendition of the national anthem, making it one of the many stand out moments.
Now we get into the, ah, slightly controversial, smaller aspects of the film that I don’t really like or think could be fixed up a little (gulps and prepares for fanboy assassination, I STILL LOVE THE MOVIE). Okay, Bane getting *killed* by Catwoman still really, really bugs me. It’s probably my biggest complaint with the entire film, I just don’t like it. You build up this insanely strong character, this epic battle that is ensuing between the oppressed and the oppressors, Batman and Bane…and then you have him quickly get shot by Catwoman on the Batpod… I think it’s a tad lazy to be completely honest, and kind of disrespects the character that’s been set up.
Marion Cotillard as Talia Al Ghul is great; she plays the role just as you would expect a great actress like Cotillard would, but Talia’s relationship with Bruce kind of feels a little forced. They just met, and are now having sex next to the fireplace. The relationship is never developed, so the whole “twist” about Talia being the mastermind is not as impactful as it should be. On top of that, when Batman reveals his identity to Gordon, it is insanely powerful, such a fantastic moment, and with Batman saving the city by sacrificing himself, flying the bomb out to sea. BANG. Wow. Tears, nearly. BUT…then the film suffers a common thing with trilogies; it develops ’multiple end syndrome’. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, if it didn’t happen within the final 6 minutes of the film…
The Dark Knight is still a great film and a fantastic end to a revolutionary, artistic and entertaining trilogy. Personally, it is the weakest of the trilogy and just doesn’t have that same memorability and impact that the first two films had. But, it still contains superb acting, storytelling, music and characters, while also offering a nice, complete end to the trilogy.
By Jack Dignan
Olympus Has Fallen, directed by Antoine Fuqua, was released back in 2013 to mixed reviews. While I haven't gone back and rewatched it since seeing it in cinemas for the first time, I had fun with it. It was a big, fun, dumb movie that featured Gerard Butler kicking all sorts of ass. What I didn't expect to come from Olympus Has Fallen was a sequel, yet here I am, two days away from the film's Australian release, discussing a sequel to that very movie. We may not have needed one, and I may not have wanted one, but what we did get was another mindless piece of entertainment, and once again, I had fun with it.
London Has Fallen picks up not too long after the events of the first movie. Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is serving as President Benjamin's (Aaron Eckhart) bodyguard, as well as close friend. He's expecting a baby with his wife, Leah (Radha Mitchell), although just two weeks before the due date, he's sent off to London to help protect the President from any potential harm. All of the world leaders have come together for a funeral of one of their closest allies, and it's just before this funeral begins that an attack takes place, this attacked aimed towards the President. Mike, without the help of anyone else, must protect Benjamin with his life, escaping through the streets of London to who-knows-where.
It's noisy, it's dumb, it's a lot of fun. London Has Fallen brings out as much cheesiness as it can, resulting in a film so corny, it works. It's the ultimate cheese fest, every line of dialogue either a one liner or a one liner from a classic action movie. None of the dialogue is remotely natural, but in the moment, it seems to work, even an unintentionally hilarious line Gerard Butler gives about how thirsty he is. It's forced, stupid, and so unexpectedly terrible that my entire audience had to take a moment or two to let the awfulness of the line sink in before we all burst into prolonged laughter.
The dialogue may be awful, but this is an action film... so is the action any good? Yes and no. The special effects are shameful, and I've seen clips on YouTube with better effects than this movie. It's not just a few of them here and there, though. It's all of them. Every last one. It's oh so very bad, yet the film insists that it's necessary to have some in every action set piece. Thankfully, the action itself, no matter how bad it looks, can be fun. Gerard Butler is having the best time with this character, releasing his inner John McClane, but with the added skills of Jason Bourne. Granted, the skills aren't as... well... skillful, but it sure is entertaining to watch.
It's the sort of film that knows how ridiculous it is and rolls with it, adding extra cheese on top of its cheese. It's over the top, outrageously stupid, mildly racist and not the best acted film around, yet I wasn't bored. It's the type of film that I should despise, yet it did something right and I wasn't. I honestly can't explain why. Unlike Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen isn't directed by Antoine Fuqua, but is instead directed by Babak Najafi, and Fuqua's direction is sorely missed, Najifi's directing is just about as generic as they come. 97% of the shots in this movie are bland or overdone, and then out of the blue comes this extremely long tracking shot, something a lot of action movies have been doing as of late. So, is this one long shot memorable? No, not really. You can tell it's four or five shots edited into one and even then, none of them are overly impressive and severely lack guidance.
On top of the camera work, there's also plenty of questionable editing choices, most notably the decision to constantly be reminding us of the time. There's a scene late into the film, a scene I obviously won't spoil as it's a very pivotal scene, where a subtitle appears about five times reminding us of what the time is. Literally one minute would pass the clock would reappear, and I have no explanation as to why this was deemed a wise choice. If it was to show a race against the clock, they really failed at that as once was more than enough. The other times it appeared was just distracting and took me out of the moment, although in all honestly, I was barely in the moment to begin with.
To sum up, London Has Fallen is an unnecessary sequel that works. It's loud, dumb, predictable, poorly acted and very blandly made, which is usually a good indication that something is bad, yet I had a lot of fun with it. Feel free to sue me, but I enjoyed this movie.
By Jack Dignan
Disney have always been a company that broadens our imaginations, turning mature aged people into little kids, singing and dancing to their favourite Lion King songs. For decades now, they've managed to make audiences laugh, cry, feel young and be moved, and no matter how many films they release, they always manage to exceed expectations. With Zootopia, Disney have created a world in which there are no humans. It's a world of animals, these animals living their days as we would, and despite this unusual premise, they've somehow managed to craft an excellent and relatable film that I can't wait to watch again.
We focus in on the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny rabbit who moves from her family farm and country town to the city of Zootopia, where she will become the first ever bunny cop. Because she's a bunny, and because bunnies aren't normally cops, she's put in charge of parking, but this works in her favour as it leads her to a missing persons case, where predator animals have started going savage and disappearing. With 48 hours to complete the case, her job on the line and all of the police force doubting her abilities, Judy enlists the help of a local fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly hustler who's the only lead in the case. It's a race against the clock as she must figure out where the animals are going and what's making them turn savage, or else she'll have to quit her job and give up on her dreams forever.
Zootopia is a thematically deep buddy cop film that works. With this film, Disney explores themes of racism, telling it as truthfully as it is in reality, but using animals to do so. The film's themes will resonate with people of all ages, although it's the older audience that may benefit immediately from it. Younger audiences will already be drawn in by the talking animals, and while the message will certainly get to them, it may not impact them for a few years, but this is far from a bad thing. Disney, like they have many times before, have planted a seed from which a better way of living will soon grow.
Thematically deep, but also bouncy and colourful, Zootopia is a joyful watch with plenty of laughs. The character designs, as with all Disney movies, are wonderful, suiting the style and tone of the film, as well as creating a vibrant and well thought out world. I never want animations to look 100% photorealistic, and so the style of Zootopia is about as great as I'd want it to be. It's a fun movie and while a small fraction of the jokes hit as well as they could've, the ones that do work well, and add in a few pop culture references here and there and you've got a hit on your hands. Bravo, Disney. Bravo.
One of the standout scenes in the film was the scene in which Judy and Nick go get a number plate traced, as seen in the trailer that I have attached below. This trailer is what sold me on the film, making me laugh harder than any trailer last year, but also selling me on the idea of this film. This sloth scene is the absolute best scene in the movie, and the best parts are still well hidden. If you loved the sloth trailer, you're going to love this movie. It's jokes like that, but for a solid hour and a half, and it's just a thoroughly entertaining movie, the jokes occasionally more adult than you'd expect.
What Disney are great at doing is creating iconic characters, and with Zootopia, they've done it once again. The supporting cast are far and in-between, some working really well, such as Idris Elba's police captain and Nate Torrence's receptionist, and some working not so well, such as J.K. Simmons' underused mayor who has about three minutes of screen time all up. It's the main characters, however, who make this film as good as it is. They're developed and emotionally investing, and their stories touched my heart, moving me in more ways than one. I didn't expect to, but I absolutely adored Jason Bateman's character in this film. His backstory and character arc is truly something.
There's a moment early on in Zootopia where Judy confronts Nick, and it's during this scene, and no, this isn't a spoiler, where Nick mocks Judy, explaining how familiar her life story sounds. He may have been making a joke, but he's not wrong. His description of this movie's outcome isn't necessarily correct, but he raises a fair point. The overall narrative for this film isn't anything all that new. At its core, it's a typical buddy cop film that follows the genre conventions, and while Disney put their own spin on the story and give it enough depth and humour to make it work, it does feel familiar at times. Not all the time, but certainly some of the time.
To sum up, Zootopia is a family friendly film about talking animals that's thematically deeper and more adult than you'd expect it to be, full of laughs and touching moments. It's an entertaining movie with a little something for everyone, and the sloth scene is my favourite thing ever.
By Jack Dignan
It's the sequel nobody knew existed. 10 Cloverfield Lane is the "blood relative" of 2008's Cloverfield, a found footage monster movie that's a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Nothing was announced of this sequel until this January, where producer J.J. Abrams, a man known for his secrecy, released the first trailer. It was a shock to all, and the marketing worked. During the press screening I attended for this film, nobody seemed to know what they were about to watch. I could hear questions being asked amongst friends everywhere, speculation growing. None of us had any idea what this film was even about, and that is the ideal conditions for this movie. Do your best to avoid spoilers and footage. Watch the film and be immersed. It's worth it.
Before the screening for this film started, a presenter came up on stage, like always, and introduced the movie. This time, however, they made sure we knew not to spoil a thing, and really accentuated how secretive this project was. We weren't permitted to spoil a thing, and while the film has now been released publicly, I am still going to follow through with this promise. But essentially, the film follows the story of Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who's in a car accident and taken into an underground shelter by a mysterious man named Howard (John Goodman) and Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.). The two insist that the outside world has fallen into chaos, the air completely unbreathable, but as the poster states, monsters come in many forms.
While the first Cloverfield is an effective monster movie, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a character driven thriller, and it works oh so very well. The film revolves around these three characters hiding out in a bunker underground, and it makes for one of the most suspenseful movies in history. Not being a direct sequel to the first film works in this film's favour, allowing for new characters, a new scenario and an excellent execution. None of the characters are entirely trustworthy, their motives never fully explained, and as shit hits the fan, I experienced, for the first time in my life, the sensation of nail biting. A film has never physically made me bite my nails until now.
Since it's really just about these three characters, the film relies on their performances, especially since the screenplay by Damien Chazelle, Matthew Stuecken and Josh Campbell is already utterly brilliant. Do we get good performances though? Oh, we get good performances alright. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is sensational, but it's really John Goodman who kills it in this movie, giving what I would easily consider one of his best performances to date. His character is dark and unknown, but layered with a twisted sense of humour, and Goodman brings out the best of both worlds, giving a performance that's both chilling and sympathetic.
Before going into this film, I didn't even really know what it was about, let alone how much of a connection it has to the first Cloverfield. Because of this, the film had me guessing right up until its anticlimactic finale, but more on that later. I've said it already, but you really need to understand. Please go into this movie knowing as little as possible. It not only works in the film's favour, but it allows you, as an audience member, to experience the twists and turns for yourself. There's a point in this film about twenty minutes in, you'll know it when you see it, where I came to the realisation that I had absolutely no idea where this film was going, and that was a very, very good thing.
As for first time director Dan Trachtenberg, he's making it seem that 2016 is really the year for first time directors. First, we had Deadpool, which is currently my favourite film of the year, and now we have 10 Cloverfield Lane, an exceptionally well made thriller that Trachtenberg nails. His directing in this movie is seriously on point, the camera work utterly brilliant and the score more effective than I expected it to be. He understands what this film is and how to get it to work, and he does so. If we see more of him in the near future, I certainly won't be complaining.
The disappointing thing about 10 Cloverfield Lane is that, for a long period of time, this was nearly a 5 star movie. It was a very high 4 and a half star movie, which could've been pushed up to 5 stars if it was trimmed down ever so slightly. Then the ending happens, and the film just goes downhill fast. The ending is jarring and unexpected, and I won't go into spoilers, but it feels like a different film all together. The final 25 minutes of this film had me wanting to like it, but I just.... couldn't, and don't even get me started on the very final scene of the movie because I hate it with a passion. I've been yelling about it for the past 24 hours. Ask anyone I know. Or my neighbours. They probably heard me too.
To sum up, 10 Cloverfield Lane is four fifths of a great movie, full of suspense, sophisticated characters, solid direction and great performances, including an absolutely chilling one from John Goodman. Then the rest of the film happens, and I can't even explain how bad it is without spoilers. It's just.... no, no.
3 1/2 Stars
By Jack Dignan
Sacha Baron Cohen has done it again, and that is certainly not a compliment. While his movie career hit its peak with his smash hit Borat, Cohen pushing the limits of the phrase 'socially acceptable,' in my opinion, his filmography started going downhill after that. Fast. Bruno was a train wreck, failing to deliver laughs and likability, and The Dictator is just painfully average. So, naturally, I wasn't all that keen for Grimsby, especially after the advertising didn't do its job well enough to gain my interest. So, is this film an absolute disaster? Or has Cohen made another successful comedy?
Grimsby, also known as The Brothers Grimsby in some countries, follows the story of Nobby (Sacha Baron Cohen), who lives in his childhood town of Grimsby with his wife (Rebel Wilson) and 11 children. In the last 20-something years, he's been in search of his long lost brother, Sebastian (Mark Strong). The two were close as children and Nobby has been looking for him ever since, but as it turns out, however, Sebastian is a spy, and after Nobby interrupts one of his missions, he's a spy on the run. Nobby must help him hide, but when a new mission calls, Sebastian's only hope is his idiotic brother.
I will admit, Grimsby isn't quite as bad as I expected it to be. The trailers for this movie have been playing in front of nearly every mature-rated movie over the last two months and every time I saw it, it just got worse and worse and worse. I wasn't at all excited in the slightest. I was dreading it, and to my surprise, it's not as bad as you might think. During the first thirty minutes, in fact, it wasn't completely awful. There were a few solid chuckles. After that, it does go downhill fast and for the rest of the film, there's only two or three other genuinely funny moments.
Sacha Baron Cohen has always been one to go beyond the boundries, doing things most people would consider to be 'wrong' or 'inappropriate.' In fact, just recently he snuck his Ali-G costume into the Oscars and performed in character, despite the Academy telling him to specifically not do such a thing. With Grimsby, the only part of the promotional material that seemed to work was the promise of one of the most controversial and hilarious scenes ever. Cohen went around to different celebrities and talk shows and showed the scene, but hasn't released it publicly. I was holding out hope that it could be a stand out for the film, and while it's definitely not going to be something I forget, that's not for good reasons.
The jokes may rarely work, but this film isn't without merit. The leads have excellent comedic chemistry, there are some slightly moving moments and I will give it credit for being as ballsy as it is. It doesn't work, but it takes risks, and that's a very good thing for the genre of comedy. Seeing the same old thing every time is getting stale, although that's not to say this film is entirely original. There are moments of originality, yes, but everything else plays out just how you'd think it would. There's no surprises in terms of plot or character development, but did I really expect there to be?
To sum up, when Grimsby works, it got some good chuckles out of me, and when it doesn't work, it got a lot of groans and sighs. There's good comedic chemistry and it takes a lot of risks, but it ultimately turns into another Sasha Baron Cohen dud.
By Jack Dignan
When I saw this film, it was actually fun. It's not going to sound fun, but it was. It was just me, alone, sitting in the cinema, the only other person closer to the front. I could spread out, relax and get invested into this tale of heroic actions, and for one reason or another, this seemed to work. It seemed to amplify my enjoyment for the film, combining together the spaciness of home with the investment of the cinema experience, and since I could hardly remember the film's trailer, I was able to go on this ride unspoiled, and I liked it. It's a simple tale, and one I probably won't ever see again, but for the two hours I was in the cinema for, it was an enjoyable movie.
The Finest Hours is the true story of Bernie Webber (Chris Pine), a coast guard in New England in 1952. He's engaged to a lovely young woman named Miriam (Holiday Grainger), and on the day he goes to ask his commander (Eric Bana) for permission, he's sent away on a mission he knows he might not come back from. An oil tanker, just off the coast line, has been struck by intense waves and split in half. 30 survivors remain on the ship, and if they don't get rescued soon, they're all going to die. It's up to Bernie and his three crew members to take a small boat out into the middle of the sea and rescue them, but the odds are most certainly against them.
The Finest Hours is a story of heroism and doing the impossible, and while both these themes have been done before in much better movies, for what it was, I enjoyed it. Chris Pine plays an extremely likeable and kind hearted coast guard, and right from the opening scene, I felt connected to his character. I liked him. We witness the beginnings of his relationship with Miriam, before cutting forward to their engagement, giving the overall story stakes and emotion. The scenes with Miriam back on land while he's out at sea aren't quite as interesting, but it does build up to a satisfyingly moving pay off.
It's slow moving, but once the film gets going, it's good. A decent amount of time is dedicated to setting up these characters and their relationships with one another, and while it's necessary for the story, it's a bit of a drag and dwells in very familiar territory. But once Pine is sent out to sea, it makes for a damn good movie. It's a repetitive scenario, the characters just floating through wave after wave, but I was far from bored, and as their journey continues, the stakes continue to rise, and I found myself doubting that this film would have a happy ending.
As a film, everything is played very safe. It does the things you'd expect a true story of this subject matter to do, and it does make for an entertaining movie, but there's nothing about it that made me say "woah." Nothing had my jaw dropped or had me looking on in awe. Even the performances aren't anything praise-worthy. Chris Pine and Casey Affleck steal the show, but it's neither of their best. They're fine, but nothing more. They give exactly the same performances you'd expect them to give, but to be fair, everything in this film is handled exactly how you'd expect the filmmakers to handle it.
To sum up, The Finest Hours is a familiar and safe true story with off pacing, but nothing about its familiarities are necessarily bad, and therefore, the film actually ends up being pretty good and surprisingly moving.
By Jack Dignan
An a-list cast in a crime movie that promises to be a more intense version of Heat? Count me in. That sounds like the best thing ever, especially when you look at the cast list and realise this super star cast consists of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anthony Mackie, Kate Winslet, Casey Affleck and Woody Harrelson, amongst many, many others. And what’s that? It’s directed by John Hillcoat, the guy who made The Road and Lawless? Yes please. Except….. This film isn't the extraordinary motion picture everyone wanted it to be. In fact, it's really rather average. Why, that is quite unfortunate indeed.
Triple 9 combines together the story of a few different cops and criminals into a film about robbery, family and corrupt cops. Who the main character is is debatable, seeing’s as how it seems to change every twenty minutes or so. There’s Michael (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Jorge (Clifton Collins Jr.), two ex-military members who team up with a cop named Marcus (Anthony Mackie) to perform crimes and robberies for Irina (Kate Winslet), who has assigned them one last job, and the only way to get this job done is to get all the police distracted by the death of a cop, and the cop they’ve chosen to kill is Marcus’ new partner, Chris (Casey Affleck).
Sounds interesting? Maybe that’s because you’ve seen this story in a thousand different films, except this time there isn’t just one story they’ve stolen from. It’s a combination of a variety of other films, or more accurately, every other film. Nothing feels new. Nothing feels original. As I watched this film, I couldn’t help but think “I’ve seen this before,” and this is a feeling that never managed to go away, bumming me out for the entirety of the runtime. My enjoyment towards this movie was pulled down by my constant reminders of how clichéd and unoriginal this film is.
Hillcoat certainly knows how to make a movie, his direction and cinematography here is solid, but what he fails to do is create suspense. The action is handled well and you can feel the grittiness and realism of these locations and these scenarios, but for some reason, the suspense is all gone. It's handled well, but there's never any stakes. He just lets the scenarios play through, hoping we'll be on the edge of our seats, but when there's nothing to lose, I... just... kind of... sat there, waiting for it to be over.
On the bright side, the performances in Triple 9 are exceptionally good, and that's just what you'd want in a film with a cast as good as this one. The characters they're playing are very clichéd, which is normally a bad thing, but in terms of their performances, it gives them a lot to play around with. They're simple characters with simple motives (or at least I think it was simple. The whole good guy-bad guy line got a little blurry), meaning the actors can be more focussed on their performance rather than developing their character, and it works. It's nothing Oscar worthy, but it works.
Within the clichés and the familiarity, there's plenty of moments of entertainment. They're far and in-between, but they're there, waiting patiently for their chance to pounce into the spotlight. There's plenty of twists and turns in the plot that, while predictable, are at least enjoyable to watch unravel, and on top of that, the few robbery sequences that take place are certainly the best parts of the film, especially a getaway on a bridge that was hinted at in some of the trailers.
To sum up, Triple 9 is a crime film that should've been so much more. There's moments of entertainment, but these moments are far and in-between, replaced by a formulaic and clichéd plot that's all over the place and very, very familiar.
2 1/2 Stars