By Jack Dignan
It's the Marvel film everything has been building up to.... until Infinity War comes out in two years time. Captain America: Civil War was the movie nobody, including myself, thought could possibly be translated to screen, but bestow and behold, here we have it. Civil War was the biggest shakeup in the Marvel comic universe, affecting every single comic run at the time, and as it is the first film in Marvel's phase three, it's about time the movies shook things up to, and what better way to do that than by pitting the Avengers against each other in a full on brawl.
Captain America: Civil War, despite having almost the entire Avengers lineup, still follows the story of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), also known as Captain America. After another Avengers mission results in collateral damage, the government, led by Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt), comes in to take control, setting forth a bill that forces the Avengers to work under government control. Half the team agree with it, the other half don't. The Avengers are split in half, Captain America leading one team and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) leading the other. The two go head to head, fighting it out in a war with consequences far greater than either of them planned.
The Civil War comic book storyline, in my opinion, is the best comic run Marvel has ever done, and it's quite possibly the best comic series I've ever read. Captain America: Civil War most certainly does the comic book justice, and even though it has just a fraction of the amount of characters the comic used, they're all utilised well, resulting in some moments of pure insanity. But more on that later. Before the insane moments start to appear, this is still a Captain America film through and through, his relationship with Bucky becoming a very crucial part of the story, and even introduces us to a man named Zemo (Daniel Brühl), a villain of sorts with a lot more depth than you would expect.
Tension is rising in the team, and after a series of catastrophic events, it's about time they get some new recruits. Civil War sees the inclusion of Ant-Man, who made his debut in his extremely entertaining solo film last year, Black Panther and, of course, Spider-Man. The new recruits fit in perfectly, never crammed in, but instead are welcomed as a part of the team and each serve as important aspects of the story. I was already excited for all of their upcoming solo movies, but after watching them onscreen here, I'm even more excited than I already was.
While all the new Avengers are great and each get a few moments in the spotlight to really show off their powers, it's Spider-Man who undoubtably steals the entire film. We may have only seen him on screen for about twenty five minutes, but Tom Holland is already my favourite Spider-Man/Peter Parker. He's charismatic, funny, agile and is a 100% accurate portrayal of the Spider-Man from the comics. As a Spider-Man fan, this film blew me away. They can call his solo movie whatever the hell they want. If this is the Spider-Man we get in it then I am going to be there in the cinema ten times opening day.
It's not just the new characters who steal the show, either. Almost everyone in this movie has a standout scene, each of their personalities absolutely nailed. To my surprise, it was Falcon who ended up being one of the best things about this film. First appearing in 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Falcon has proved himself to be worthy of the superhero attire, and in Civil War he's never been better. The scenes between him and Bucky are an utter delight, their banter a joy to watch.
The Marvel movies are typically seen as lighthearted and fun, but with Civil War, things change. Sure, there's still plenty of humour and smiles, but it's also the darkest Marvel movie yet, raising some serious issues that haven't been dealt with until now. There's a political undertone to it all, both teams raising some seriously good points, so much so that I was, at times, actually conflicted about who I agreed with, and that's exactly what this film needed to do. It's a Captain America movie, but it shows the reasoning behind both sides, and when they brawl, they brawl, and I didn't know who I wanted to win.
It's shown briefly in the trailers, but there's an airport fight scene about halfway through this movie that's an Avengers vs. Avengers battle, and it may just be my favourite scene from any superhero movie ever made. It's friends fighting friends, and this gives it an emotional and personal push, and while they're all at war, you know they don't want to be doing this. You know they'd much rather be fighting bad guys than fighting each other, but as the war continues and more revelations are made, the battle just gets more and more personal., resulting in a final fight that had my jaw dropped.
Directors Joe and Anthony Russo last directed Captain America: The Winter Solider, which featured big scale action with global results. They're also signed on to direct the upcoming two parter, Avengers: Infinity War, which again, will more than likely feature action on a global scale. Captain America: Civil War deals with the consequences of those sort of scenarios, and because of this, the film is told on a much smaller scale. No cities are dropped from the sky this time around, it's just a few Avengers brawling it out, and it works so much better than you'd expect it to. It feels just as big, but it's really not, and the Russo Brothers continue to prove that they're the best guys for the job. Phase Three is in good hands.
To sum up, Captain America: Civil War makes me a happy movie fan, Marvel fan and yes, a happy Spider-Man fan. It's an explosive and fun installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that manages to blend together a good amount of drama for what is quite possibly the best film Marvel have ever made.
By Jack Dignan
You've heard the term 'underdog story' before, haven't you? You all know what it means. It's the story of someone who, against all odds, rises up to outshine their potential. They're the little people nobody thinks anything of, or the people who clearly can't achieve what they want to achieve, yet they ride up and give it a go. Eddie the Eagle, by all definitions, is an underdog story, and it's about the most underdog story ever told. There's a saying that goes everyone loves a good underdog story, and since that saying is more than likely true, it's almost guaranteed that you're going to love Eddie the Eagle.... if you're in one of the two countries on planet earth that hasn't gotten this movie yet.
Eddie the Eagle is the true story of Eddie Edwards (Taron Egerton), a kind hearted and sweet young man who, for his entire life, has just wanted to be an olympian, and has tried just about every single sport there is. After being kicked off of his ski team and told he will never be able to make it into the olympics, Eddie takes up ski jumping, coached by former olympian Bronson Peary (Hugh Jackman). The two go forth to try and help Eddie achieve his dreams, and it makes for what is one of the most inspiring films in recent memory.
I am not an athlete, there's no hiding that, nor am I particularly fond of watching sports. Sports movies, when done right, can be highly entertaining, as sports movies are never about the activities they're doing. It's not about the sport. It's about the people. With Eddie the Eagle, the characters are emotionally investing, fleshed out and extremely likeable. Egerton's Eddie is the one of the most kindhearted and good willed characters of all time, and I couldn't help but smile as he chased his dreams, constantly supported by his adoring mother, played by Jo Hartley, who helped give this movie an even bigger emotional push.
The performances are all round terrific, every actor giving it the best they could possibly do and nailing their character. Each character is distinctly different in personality, but they all come together to form an insanely likeable movie. We last saw Taron Egerton in last year's Kingsman: The Secret Service and the Tom Hardy led gangster movie, Legend, and while Eddie the Eagle sees him playing a vastly different role, he gives a performance that's just as good, if not better than his last ones. The more I see of this guy, the more I like him.
While Dexter Fletcher directs this film with a lot of energy, the story does feel rather familiar. Well, not the story, per say, but there's plenty of familiar beats. It's the classic underdog formula, but it's undeniably done well, resulting in a massive smile to be planted on my face from start to finish, so much so that I found myself on the brink of tears.... from happiness. This film is an utter delight, appealing to all ages and delivering a fun time at the movies.
To sum up, Eddie the Eagle hits some familiar biopic beats, but as the saying goes, everyone loves an underdog story, so yes, this film is rather loveable. Funny, exciting, well acted and uplifting, it just works. I loved it.
By Jack Dignan
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA fuck. This wasn't good. I knew going into this film that I wasn't going to like it, but goddamn, I was still let down by it. The first Divergent film, I will admit, isn't terrible. It's not by any means good, although I did think that on initial viewing, but it's not as bad as it could've been. It was soon followed up by Insurgent, which I presumed would be this franchise's low point. It was the middle chapter, so there's no way this series could get any worse, right? Wrong. Oh so very wrong. Insurgent, which I hate with a passion, actually looks like an alright film in comparison to whatever the hell I watched last night. This one was just incomprehensibly bad.
Allegiant begins where Insurgent left off, with Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) leading the people of Chicago to freedom beyond the wall..... until Evelyn (Naomi Watts) decides it's best for nobody to leave, traps them in and starts to control them, because who needed a follow through with the cliffhanger ending of the last one anyway? Tris and Four have had enough, leading a team beyond the wall where they discover what the world is really like. That's.... that's all I've got, really. I honestly don't think this film had a plot until the last ten minutes, and even then the plot makes no sense.
I don't really know where to begin with this movie, so all I'll say is that nothing can prepare you for how truly terrible it is. I've seen some pretty damn awful young adult movies in the last few years, but I don't think I've seen any as lazy, poorly scripted and just plain frustrating to watch as this one. It may be called Allegiant, but it's only half of Allegiant. The filmmakers thought putting the words "part 1" in the title would be a bad move. Little did they realise, it just makes me want to watch the next one even less.
There's a reason this is the shortest film in the franchise thus far, and that's because there's nothing left in this story for them to tell. The writers clearly had no idea what they were doing because every ten minutes or so a random, out of the blue moment occurs that wasn't the least bit foreshadowed and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The plot attempts to stuff so many things in that it doesn't end up stuffing anything in, resulting in a film that's impossible to follow, and even people who've read and loved the books can agree with that. I have not, nor do I intent to, especially after these last two god-awful excuses for a bag of cash, which the producers clearly didn't get as the film made half of what the last one did when it came out in America last month.
Allegiant has an absolutely fantastic cast, I will give it that, but you can tell they're all just here for the money. Theo James is just about the only person here trying, but he just simply isn't that good of an actor, his lines stale and overly dramatised. Plus, when the action goes down, he looks like a puppet. It's hilarious. I don't even think Miles Teller read the script for this movie, but I'm so glad he didn't as he's easily the best thing about this film. He clearly doesn't give a shit about the movie, making sarcastic comments left, right and centre. I do feel bad for the guy, though, as he's a much better actor than this. He needs to be doing more things like Whiplash and The Spectacular Now, not more things like this.
As the film goes on, it just gradually gets stranger and stranger and stranger, featuring weird floating wombs, gooey perverted showers, CGI that's worse than the animation in some 2D animated movies, drug trip inducing gas and a bazillion plot holes. There is a moment, I kid you not, where Tris says to Jeff Daniels' character that she's going to steal his ship. Daniels doesn't do anything about it, he just watches her leave, walks to a screen and tells security to go get her, then get's surprised when she escapes. Dude..... You watched her take that thing and didn't do jack shit. It's moments like this that make the film a painfully frustrating experience.
Allegiant truly is a one of a kind experience, but for all the wrong reasons. Fantastic Four is no longer the worst film Miles Teller has done, Allegiant can now claim that. There are so many better ways I could've spent my time, but to be honest, I'm glad I saw this movie. It gives me another film to add to my 'worst of 2016' list at the end of the year, which it most certainly will be making. Also, if you do insist on seeing this movie (for unknown reasons), do not go alone. That would just be a painful experience. Take a friend, make fun of it, and both endure the pain. It's not a film you're going to want to see on your own.
To sum up, Allegiant is a film I went into with low expectations, but still came out of it disappointed at how bad it truly was. It's a clichéd, uneventful, poorly written and frustratingly bad experience that makes me feel genuine sorrow for all that were involved.
0 1/2 Stars
By Chris Campo
Here we are, my final Spider-man review. Re-visiting these films and sharing my opinions has been such a fun ride. I found new faults in the films I loved and found new bright spots in films I may have held a grudge against. It's a little surreal that this is my last Spidey review, as that means we are SO DAMN CLOSE to his highly anticipated introduction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Captain America: Civil War. But like I said, here we are, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is one of the most decisive superhero films of all time. After a close re-watch with a more critical eye, I am sad to say this film isn't how I remember it, so without further ado, lets talk about the latest stand alone Spider-Man film.
Continuing where The Amazing Spider-Man left off, Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) is not only struggling with his past and the secrets it holds, but his future, as he is unsure where to go with current sweetheart Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone), as the broken promise to her late father haunts him everywhere he goes. On the contrary, Peter Parker is as confident as ever when under the mask and swinging around as Spider-Man, a hero to the city and a proud protector of the things he holds closest. The darkness of his personal life and his web slinging alter ego collide when Oscorp, and it's new owner Harry Osborne (Dane DeHaan), uses his parent's research against him for personal gain. Another road block introduces itself as Electro (Jamie Foxx), an Oscorp employee, turned electric-based super villian, vows to defeat Spider-Man simply to make sure he will never be forgotten.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is a mixed bag. It seems as if the filmmakers took a handful of elements of a good film, a handful of elements of a bad film, threw it in a bag and filmed said bag. There must have also been a hole at the bottom of it too because you can clearly see the passion and good ideas slowly slip away as the film goes on, resulting in a mess of a movie just spilled all over the floor. Every time something amazing happened, the film slaps you in the face with a series of shit moments or story beats. The plot, or plots, are all over the place and barley cohesive at best, the character development and motivation isn't ever clear or properly laid out, and the emphasis on setting up some kind of shared universe baffles me with how shoehorned and un-rewarding it is. I have defended this movie for a while, but after re-watching it, I have come to the conclusion that this may tie with Spider-Man 3 as my least favorite of the series.
Structurally, this film is an absolute mess. The film starts strong with an entertaining opening action scene that's both fun and exciting. It's also the best example of setting up a sequel in the entire film, as we briefly get introduced to Paul Giamatti as the Rhino. In fact, I don't really mind the whole first act of this film. It puts you right in the action, it sets up an intriguing human story between Gwen and Peter, and the Oscorp stuff is not too overwhelming. The second act is really where that bag I mentioned starts to tear. Harry Osborne has no real place in this film, The Norman Osborne stuff is more than shoehorned in, story lines start to blur and some story lines are completely abandoned. The third act, however, has some standout scenes, including the darkest and most unforgivably heartbreaking scenes in all five films, but the final fight(s) are a waste of concept, and Spidey straight up kills a guy... I understand Spider-Man has killed in the comics, but I wasn't a fan of it here.
The main villain, Electro, is part awesome and part awful. Part awesome in his design, he is so bad-ass looking. His musical theme is also a stand out in the overall boring score by Hans Zimmer. Incorporating the voices in his head into the score is, admittedly, brilliant. The awful comes, mostly, from the execution and performance by Jamie Foxx. Foxx seems so lazy, like he's mumbling all the awful dialogue. And there are awful lines of dialogue given to Electro, especially "It's my birthday, time to light the candles." Credit where it is due, Electro is part of the best action scene in this film. The action set piece in Times Square is breathtaking. It's epic, it's exciting and it has some great effects and it's the only scene where the motives of Electro are clearly portrayed. Also, Electro is probably the best villain in this film, as this version of the Green Goblin is the extremely laughable and I don't even consider the Rhino a main villain..
This film has its share of good humor and decent emotional character moments, but the tone overall is so inconsistent and distracting. This film goes from emotional confrontations with Peter and Gwen to humor that feels more like Deadpool humor, if Deadpool wasn't rated R. When the film decides to go dark it usually comes out of nowhere and slows the film down. The only tonal shift that works is the closing 15 or so minutes, after that heartbreaking scene I mentioned. I hate Peter Parker in this film, he's too damn cool and he's witty and charming for all the wrong reasons. This Peter seems like he would be the coolest kid in New York City. The Peter we got in the first Amazing Spider-man was still a little too cool for my taste, but worked for the tone of that film. This Peter doesn't even feel like Peter. Andrew Garfield can't quite nail the various tones he has to portray through Peter. It just doesn't work.
When it comes down to it, in the end, I think I would rather watch this over Spider-Man 3. When the suit is on (and damn that's one sexy suit), there is some fun to be had. It has its moments, and the first act is actually rather good, but in the end, it's not what the character, and more importantly, what the fans of the character deserved. Oh, and no matter how sloppy, unfocused and tonally conflicted this movie is, it doesn't have one scene that is as bad as Emo Peter Parker, and it didn't completely ruin a beloved franchise like Spider-man 3 did, as the first Amazing Spider-Man wasn't the BIGGEST hit with critics or fans. Part of me is upset this film series came to a crash and burn like it did, but I'm also thankful because if this film was great, we probably wouldn't ever see Spider-Man in an Avengers film.
I remembered an exciting Spider-Man film with trouble balancing the various plots, but after re-watch I was taken back by how little this film gets right. The tone is all over the place, too many plots are introduced and some get abandoned halfway through, and this Peter Parker is just simply not Peter Parker. Not only does the Oscorp stuff make it apparent that film was never handled with care, it was just a vehicle to set up some big universe. The best thing to come out of this film was the commercial for Evian water with the dancing Spider-Man baby.
By Jack Dignan
With the live action remake of The Jungle Book finally out in theatres today, it's time to forget about your worries and your strife. When it comes to live action Disney remakes, they can go one of two ways. They can go the Maleficent route and become one big steaming mess, or they can go the Cinderella route and become a charming and likeable movie that matches the original. The Jungle Book, thankfully, does not turn out like Maleficent did. It doesn't even turn out like Cinderella did. It became its own thing, adapting and playing around with the original for a film that's just as good, if not better.
Directed by Jon Favreau, this new incarnation of The Jungle Book, based on both the original novel and Disney movie, ambitiously retells the story of Mowgli (newcomer Neel Sethi), a young kid living in the jungle with a pack of wolves. When a tiger named Shere Khan (Idris Elba) approaches the pack, threatening to kill Mowgli, he's forced to go on the run, a panther named Bagheera (Ben Kingsly) leading him to a local human village. After the two are separated, Mowgli runs into Baloo (Bill Murray), a fun loving bear who teaches him the perks of living in the jungle and makes for an unforgettable friendship.
Disney's 1967 Jungle Book is a fun little movie. It's neither their best, nor worst movie, but it's got just enough famous songs and vibrant animation to make it a contender for the word "classic." In fact, many would deem it a classic, so this new iteration has a lot to live up to, and personally, I think it matches, if not exceeds the original. It takes the themes and basic plot elements of the film, mashes it together with the book and creates something that feels fresh, but is also really not. You've seen The Jungle Book, but you haven't seen THIS Jungle Book. It's a bold, brave, heartfelt and entertaining piece of cinema that stands out amongst the many Disney remakes we've received as of late.
While I have some problems with the storytelling in the original film, particularly with the ending, this new version managed to spin the narrative around, making something that works on its own, but also shows a lot of respect to the source materials. Without delving into spoilers, I was very worried about how they were going to wrap things up, as, like I just said, the original's ending left me dissatisfied. Trust me, the ending to this film is something rather special. It's a moving and emotional conclusion that left me with a delighted smile on my face.
In terms of visuals, it's certainly hard to outdo the scale and realism brought forth by John Favreau, who has created photorealistic CGI animals.... that talk. The realism presented in this film is honestly rather overwhelming, constantly getting me to ask myself the question, "how the hell did they make this movie?" While Avatar used motion capture to create its world, The Jungle Book couldn't quite use the same method as all but one of its characters are animals, yet they've created landscapes that feel authentic, with animals that look like they belong there. It's jaw dropping.
You can have cool visuals, but without an entertaining story and suitable voice work, the film would just fall flat. The Jungle Book certainly does not fall flat. The narrative is engaging, and the cast are perfect. Bill Murray's Baloo is a crowd pleasing highlight, providing the film with heart and Murray's typical sense of humour, and no, this humour isn't always toned down to 100% appeal to children, either. His interpretation of Baloo is spot on, his interactions with Mowgli a joy to watch, and I sure do hope Neel Sethi goes places in life because he was great in this film.
To sum up, The Jungle Book is a big, bold, ambitious and visually appealing reiteration of the classic story that takes what makes the original so great, refurbishes it and makes it into something worthy of the name 'Jungle Book.' John Favreau, I'm proud of you.
By Chris Campo
Hardcore Henry is a "first person" action film, if you're not into video games, first person is where the camera is fixed to a character's point of view. Yes, like a video game. So this "first person" film has been getting a lot of buzz lately and I have to admit, I was pretty intrigued by the concept. It's something we haven't seen on the big screen yet, so I give the film major props because they absolutely go for it. It's a film unlike anything I've ever seen before, if you can even call this thing a film. It's an odd experience and I am disappointed to say this experience, as unique as it is, isn't much fun at all.
Hardcore Henry follows, you guessed it, Henry. Henry is built from the ground up to be some kind of super soldier, he has no memory, no ability to speak, an artificial arm and leg and a newly found ability to kick the ass of literally any living thing he comes across. When his supposed wife (Haley Bennett) is captured by Akan (Danila Kozlovsky), the man who made Henry "Hardcore", he enlists the help of Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) to rescue her and find out the truth about himself. I am surprised at how many sentences I was able to write about this film's plot, as it didn't seem like there was even a plot when I was watching it.
This film was obviously made to show a guy mow down hundreds of people from a first person perspective, as the little plot they setup is laughably mindless. First, to engage the audience in a character we need to know him, not be him. They make close to no effort explaining who Henry is, or why he is in this predicament. Sharlto Copley's character is the only character we ever learn about, and his character's story is the closest thing to actual character development in the whole thing. The villain of the film is literally the most un-interesting bad guy in any film I have seen in a long time. He can move stuff with his mind and he wants to create an army, for some reason. I also have literally no idea what the bad guys want with Henry. Not one scene in this film makes any sense, making this more of an action showcase than an actual movie.
Speaking of the action in this film, where do I begin. When the first real action scene started, I got extremely worried. I didn't think I could sit through a whole 90 minutes of it. It was shaky, incomprehensible, loud, and obnoxious, Thankfully, not all the action scenes are like this. There are two scenes I can honestly say impressed the hell out of me. One being a motorcycle chase that makes it's way into a tank chase and finally ends with a chase scene on a helicopter, This was about half way through the film and when it happened, I was a little more excited for what was to happen after that. The second action scene I enjoyed was a shootout in the final act that emphasizes big guns and grenades. It also features a sequence where Henry is using a sniper rifle and it's the more impressive uses of the first person angle. This scene had somewhat competent camera work and wasn't as frantic as the rest of the film, like the over bloated and tedious final fight. It literally seemed like it was never going to end.
I love violence just as much as the next guy, but here it just seems excessive. Nearly every human on screen we ever see in the film gets absolutely decimated and the gore is just too much. We see heads blown up, cut off, sliced in half, hearts ripped out, entrails leaving the stomach, corpses exploding into paint on the walls and even more disgusting fatalities, and it just got to be too much. It's when Henry pulls a man's hand in half where I think to myself, this is gross and a little too far, and I love bloody action and I love gore, but this put the worst taste imaginable in my mouth. Maybe it wouldn't be that bad if there was any down time in this film, but there is not. It's just 90 full on minutes of brutal killing. The first person view doesn't help, as all of it is in full frame, as well.
To make it seem more appealing, this film has a healthy dose of humor, and to my surprise, I found myself laughing at many of the jokes. There's a scene where Henry tried to ride a horse and it was so utterly stupid, but it made me laugh pretty damn hard. There's a standout dance number in the film as well, it's actually quite clever and made me laugh, but also feel uncomfortable at the same time. I have to praise Sharlto Copley and his incredible comedic performance, he is the film's brightest bright spot and whenever he is onscreen, I laughed. Not all the humor works, but I like that it was there. Along with laughing with the film, there are many times I laughed at the film. whether it's at the god awful dialogue or the laughably bad portrayal of women. Literally every on-screen female is a hooker or a straight up bitch.
Here's the kicker. Here is what I truly hated about this film. It's structured almost exactly like a video game. There's a scene that feels like a mission every game has that has you using a mounted mini-gun, there's scene that feels like a stealth mission in a video game, there's the mission where you protect something from damage while in one room and there's the final boss that has dozens of pawns fighting for him. It just feels so desperate to get the feel of a video game down that it never feels like you're watching a movie. It feels like you're watching someone else play a video game, and that person playing doesn't let you try. I play video games, I am probably the core demographic for this film, and even I hated it.
Hardcore Henry may be unlike any other movie to date, but that means absolutely nothing if it's not a good film. Some action is fun and some humor hits, but it never ascends from a gimmicky attempt to connect with a young, gaming world. Add the nauseating camerawork, excessive gore and inept story telling, you get the shoes of Hardcore Henry, which you really don't ever want to walk in.
1 1/2 Stars
By Jack Dignan
Snow White and the Huntsman, the 2012 live action tale of Snow White's violent rampage to take down the evil queen, was not that great of a movie. In fact, it was so unremarkable that I've all but forgotten it. I remember moments of it, but nothing major. The Huntsman: Winter's War was not a film I was looking forward to, not only because it just seemed like an unnecessary cash grab, but because it looked.... crap. But, I've seen it, and yes, it's every bit as unnecessary as one would imagine. It may have been advertised as a prequel, but don't be fooled, The Huntsman: Winter's War is far from it, 95% of events taking place after the first film.
It begins with two sisters, Freya (Emily Blunt) and Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Ravenna has embraced her magical powers, whereas Freya sill hasn't come to terms with them, but after a great tragedy enters her life, her powers arise, and she seeks vengeance. She decides to run off, setting up an army of children who will one day serve as great warriors. Among these warriors are Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and his forbidden lover Sara (Jessica Chastain). It's up to them two, along with the help of a few familiar faces, to stop Freya and her sister from getting the evil mirror.
It may serve as both a prequel (barely) and a sequel, but don't let that trick you into thinking this is a necessary story to be told. The tale told in Snow White and the Huntsman wasn't an interesting one, nor was it really needed, but I can understand why it existed. I could understand why someone thought it would be a good idea to make that movie, and while I didn't like the end product all that much, the movie exists and we've all forgotten about it. The Huntsman: Winter's War is a completely unnecessary, ridiculously stupid and wholeheartedly unoriginal bore with plenty of moments of unintentional hilarity.
There's appearances from characters we know and (don't) love, yet none of them are relevant to the plot in the slightest, especially the appearance of Ravenna, who's really only in the movie to make yet another connection to the first film. Why? I'm not sure. The story, as lazy and clichéd as it is, did not need to have Freya be related to Ravenna. In fact, it would've worked better if she wasn't. Her evilness is explained, and while it's connected to Ravenna, it really didn't need to be, and Charlize Theron really didn't need this film to appear in her filmography. It won't help her get any jobs anytime soon. Maybe she should just stick to showing producers Mad Max instead. That'll work well for her.
The actors.... try, I guess, and the score isn't the worst thing in the world, but none of that seems to matter when the action is bland, the visual effects are poor and the writing is.... oh boy. Maybe it's best we don't mention just how terrible the writing in this movie is. There's no need to go to the trouble of explaining it. Just do yourself a favour and don't seek this movie out. If it's on TV and you want to have a good laugh at a bad movie, maybe this is the film for you. If that's not what you're after, avoid this at all costs. Unless someone else is paying. Then.... you decide. Maybe. They better be buying you food, though. You're going to need the distraction.
To sum up, The Huntsman: Winter's War is an unnecessary story with ties to the first film that just aren't needed. It's clichéd, predictable and horribly written, although to be fair, the actors do try, if that counts for anything.
By Jack Dignan
The first Kung Fu Panda movie, released back in 2008, was a better film than I expected it to be. In fact, I loved it. I adored it. It was a fun and entertaining movie with the always likeable Jack Black in the lead role, and if your film has Jack Black, that's never a bad thing. His cameo in Sex Tape is the only good thing about that movie. Then, in 2011, Kung Fu Panda 2 came out, and again, it was a really, really good animation. Is it as good as the first? Yes. Is it better? I'm not sure. There are parts of me that want to say yes, and parts of me that want to say no. But what I can say with complete honesty is that Kung Fu Panda 3, the film that FINALLY got released here in Australia, is the best film in the trilogy.
In Kung Fu Panda 2's final moments, we were given our first look at Po's (Jack Black) father, now played by Bryan Cranston, who gave us the line "my son is alive," setting up the third film we finally received five years later. Kung Fu Panda 3's plot continues from this ending, beginning with Li, Poe's father, discovering his son after receiving a "message from the universe," something Po's adopted father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), isn't at all pleased with. Soon, however, a new threat arrises, and this threat is an old accomplice of their former master, Kai (J.K. Simmons), who's using supernatural powers to take over China. It's up to Po and his newly-found panda family to stop him.
Kung Fu Panda 3 is a heart warming and laugh out loud hilarious affair, full of jokes for people (and pandas) of all ages. When I left the screening, someone I knew asked me if I was the oldest person in the cinema by about ten years. Oh, how they were wrong. My cinema was full of people of all ages, varying from little kids to the elderly. The screening wasn't necessarily sold out, but there was still a wide range of audience members, and nearly every last one of them was laughing at this movie. Kung Fu Panda, like many animal based movies, isn't aimed primarily at kids. Sure, kids will love it, but it's still got plenty for older audiences to connect with and be moved by. Plus, it had me in hysterics, so that's always a good thing.
It's a bright and colourful film that's very simple in plot, and that's perfect for this franchise. The Kung Fu Panda movies don't have to have an overcomplicated plot with twists and turns left, right and centre. It's smooth sailing, and while minor aspects are fairly predictable, the overall story arc is a lot of fun to watch unfold, and it really helps when the camera work and colour palette is off the chains. This is a shockingly beautiful movie, especially the scenes in which the two directors blend together multiple animation styles, most notably in a training montage about two thirds of the way through. The animation is stunning to behold.
Kung Fu Panda 3, believe it or not, currently holds, although we're only 3 months in, the record for having the single best cast of the year. Seriously though, the voice cast in this movie is insane, featuring the talents of Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, J.K. Simmons, Dustin Hoffman, Bryan Cranston, Jackie Chan and so many more celebrities, and yet, none of them feel out of place. It's an a-list cast who all give it their best. With Kung Fu Panda 3, everyone is full of expression and life, helping to create a believable universe in which pandas can do kung fu, and I loved it. Not everybody gets an awful lot of screen time, but I was certainly pleased to see that all of the Furious Five members actually got to do something in this film, as in previous instalments some characters are there to give a line or two and then the movie ends. This time around, everybody gets their time to shine.
I am unsure as to whether or not a fourth Kung Fu Panda movie is going to happen, but if it does, you can guarantee you'll be seeing me in line opening day. If we were to get more and more of Po's adventures over the next few years, I wouldn't complain. That being said, if this were to be the wrap up to the Kung Fu Panda trilogy, it's a beyond admirable way to go. Not only is it the best film of the trilogy, but the film's ending is rather sweet, and serves as great closure to a great trilogy. Will it be the end? I hope not. And if it is? I'd be happy with what we got over the last eight years.
To sum up, Kung Fu Panda 3 is the best Kung Fu Panda movie yet, bringing together an a-list cast for a hilarious, moving, colourful and well shot animated movie that can appeal to people of all ages. Think this franchise is running out of steam? Think again.
4 1/2 Stars