Category: Action

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Review

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2: Review

What a spectacular film – you know it’s going to be good when the opening credits are making you laugh and cry with joy, but I’ll not spoil the reason why. I find it’s always a very difficult thing to pull off a sequel that matches the quality of the original film, but Volume 2 is an exception if ever I have seen one. It’s easily good enough to warrant seeing in cinemas, and Marvel does a wonderful job of keeping things fresh.

Volume 2 has a very different storyline in comparison to the first Guardians film, even ignoring the difference because the second is not a origin story. Volume 2 feels, in a way, much more contained with the action and dialogue to one place than the first film ever did. Ultimately, it’s still a film about ‘saving the Galaxy’, as Rocket is happy to remind us, but it is not in a way that you would expect when the film begins.

One thing that did remain similar through Volume 2 was the music; the same way it played such an important role in the first film, the music was still as important and the song choices do not disappoint. In fact, I think the music in this film is potentially even more important; it is directly spoken about and though I knew less of the songs this time around, the choices were still exactly what were necessary for the situation and what was happening on screen. I will definitely be buying the second album.

The plot was varied and sometimes had odd timings for the way things played out, including the choices made to cut scenes and move to action that was happening elsewhere. A couple of times I was put off by them; questions would be asked which would be left unanswered by a cut to another scene – the exposition for the asked question would come later, but would happen in a completely different setting and lose the continuity. Saying that, there were strong performances from all cast members and I enjoyed the character development for them all, especially being able to learn more about Drax and his past, Yondu and Nebula. Baby Groot though – oh, Baby Groot! The adorable little wood-creature makes this film what it is, and I cried several times because of the adorable tiny tree.

I was interested to see if Volume 2 could continue to be as comic as the first film – and for the most part, it succeeded. I laughed out loud at points, but it also occasionally fell short of the mark. This film was more serious than the first at points and I think they didn’t always manage to find the right balance between the more sombre moments and the comic relief. Overall, though, Volume 2 manages to capture the same light hearted spirit that I love about the Guardians of the Galaxy, without selling out on any of the action or serious character development.

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2 is a heartfelt, wonderful film. Hilarious at points, I think I must have worked my way through seven different emotions whilst watching it. It’s entertaining, has great editing and writing as well as amazing back drops – but more than that, it does what any decent sequel should do for a film: it builds. Volume 2 builds and develops all the great things we loved about Guardians of the Galaxy, showing off the character’s different roles and personalities, and makes us hungry for more. Verdict: 9/10

Power Rangers: Review

Power Rangers: Review

As someone who had never really watched the Power Rangers as a child, and when it was a television program, I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this film. I’m also not really sure what I got from it. Power Rangers at its most basic was an enjoyable film, but unfortunately it fell into too many of the childish / coming-of-age tropes and I found it utterly predictable. Also, it seemed to me that the writers never really found the balance of what the film was supposed to be – for the younger viewer, or not?

For instance, from the get-go there is some very adult humour (think along the lines of touching an animal inappropriately) which wasn’t even really very funny. This, plus the intense camera angles that I assume were trying to be ‘edgy’ set the movie as something that was trying to be fairly grown-up, and appeal to adults as well as children. However, as the film progressed, this element fell away and it seemed to revert to what I assume was it’s origins: an action adventure set for children, and paying homage to the original show.

The characters were good, as was the writing at some points – I admit, there were some moments that made me laugh out loud – but it also tripped up and fell flat a number of times. I found that the film focused too much on the Red Ranger, Jason, who was supposed to be the Power Ranger’s ‘leader’; it meant that some of the other main five’s back stories occasionally felt forced and shoved into uncomfortable exposition. We didn’t see as much of them as I would have liked, given that the hints and tidbits that were dropped did seem quite interesting.

The action sequences were average, if a little over the top (but I imagine that’s original Power Rangers style), and the final battle let me down. It wasn’t particularly difficult and didn’t last long in comparison to the build up and ‘personal growth’ the characters had to do to reach the stage where they could fight together. Saying that, I enjoyed the Zords and I’m sure any kids in the theatre would have loved it. I think what Power Rangers really needed, through out the film, was for the writers to decide what the film was supposed to be and stay there – but because it jumped and moved from action, thriller, child-friendly, adult humour and so on, the whole thing felt a little bit jarred.

Overall, Power Rangers was not a bad film, but it’s probably best viewed on DVD. Saying that, I will still watch a sequel if they make one, because I’m a sucker for action films and I do find it refreshing to have something to watch that is outside of the Marvel & DC universes. Verdict: 5/10.

Logan: Review

Logan: Review

(disclaimer: the poster with this review is ©Marvel Entertainment and does not belong to me)

Well, this one certainly wasn’t what I was expecting – and for that, I’m very pleased. Logan is in some ways a remarkably different film from what we have seen of other X-Men films as well as the Wolverine’s other spin-off movies. In a way, Logan has it’s own mark, and should stand alone as a cinematic experience of its own without any ties to the films that have come before it.

One of the reasons for this is because throughout the film, Logan gives allusions to past events in the X-Men universe that we as audience members (and X-Men fans who have seen all the other films, like myself) have not seen or even heard of before. Another big reason, I found, was because of all the swearing. Never before have we heard our favourite animalistic rage-machine swear at the top of his lungs, but Logan was swimming with cusses. Part of me believes this is down to the success of Deadpool, showing Marvel that adults love those comic books too, and films can be made for them instead of staying so ‘child friendly’. The language seemed a little over the top at the beginning of the film (it smacks you in the face as one of the first lines) but I reckon this was because the writers just got excited. As the movie goes on and you begin to settle into it, the swearing becomes a natural part of the plot and separates Logan from the rest of the child-friendly, Wolverine franchise. Which, in a way, is no bad thing.

The writing and storyline are good, if a little cliche in parts when dealing with the ‘creation’ of mutants (haven’t we seen this before?) but overall the film was a great cinematic experience, darker, dirtier and more bloody – but it showed the much more personal, human side to Logan and Professor X that we haven’t necessarily seen before. Given Logan’s ending, I’m not sure what any of this means for the X-Men universe as we know it, and as I have grown up with it.

In a way, with the film standing so gracefully on it’s own, I figure it’s best to leave it at that. However, through out the film there were also a few homages to Wolverine’s other spin offs; for instance, the samurai sword that hangs in Logan’s room, hinting at his trip to Japan. This was only one of several “easter eggs” through out the film as well – we also get to see Wolverine comic books, a Wolverine action figure, and a fair bit of muttered back story.

Logan was, and it did come as a surprise, a very heartfelt and human film at it’s core; it still maintained the action and ferocity we expect from Wolverine as a character, and thought I knew it was his final stint, I will miss Hugh Jackman in the role. I wonder if now, after so many years and films, the character will be left alone for the future X-Men films. All we can do is wait and see, but I personally hope so.

Though it made it clear that this was Hugh Jackman’s final Wolverine film, it was still sad to see him go. Logan was a touching, vibrant, well written film with the right balance of humour, tenderness, aggression and quick, sharp wit. What a send off to have been given. Verdict: 9/10.

Passengers: Review

Passengers: Review

(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is ©Columbia Pictures and does not belong to me)

What an interesting concept; Passengers, the ‘love’ story set on a ship hurtling through space. I’ve really been getting into my space-themed science fiction recently. The two ‘passengers’ we see on this giant of a ship are played by Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, and they are more or less the only actors through out the film, with brief moments of Michael Sheen as a robot and Laurence Fishburne as a crew member. Even though Jim and Aurora (Pratt and Lawrence) are the only two humans we see for most of the screen time, they still manage to hold the story well. It is a credit to both Pratt and Lawrence that they are good enough actors that I did not get bored watching them; their characters were interesting and developed, didn’t slip, and I believed in their plight.

My biggest confusion with Passengers was the plot, but this was partly because the trailer for it was misleading in what the film was actually about. The idea that “there’s a reason they woke up” is quickly twisted, almost within the first 10 minutes of the film, but the reality of the situation carries through, a heavy weight that creates a sense of foreboding, even whilst we see the action and blossoming relationship which seems to be going well. As the audience, it drips with dramatic irony: the high can’t last, but the tension we feel makes us wait with baited breath, all the more interested in what will actually happen at the inevitable reveal.

On the other hand, the ‘threat’ that is hinted out from the beginning of the film isn’t as threatening as it should have been, if we consider its suspicious lead up and the anxiety that the audience feel, watching the various technical glitches get steadily worse. However, it still puts our characters in the kind of danger where I was definitely worried for their safety, even if it could have used a few more ‘thrills’.

The science and technology we watch run the ship, and make it a luxurious environment that Aurora and Jim live in, is great. It’s a good look at a hopeful future, and as a sci-fi fan I did appreciate the various ways that humans might develop the technology to get us into space. It’s a believable future, and even though it was true science fiction, it was still a relatable film full of human needs and emotion, so I think it would sit well with a variety of audiences. Both characters’ backgrounds are well developed and helps the audience understand the way they have become the people they are now, with all their strengths and flaws.

I actually preferred the story that we saw through the film than the ‘other’ plot line that the trailer for Passengers was suggesting. As a personal tangent: it really annoys me when trailers are so different from the the films that they are essentially useless. Isn’t the whole point of the trailer to give us a hint of what the film is about? I was pleasantly surprised by the true plot and action within the film, and cannot fault its cast.

Passengers had strong writing and direction, with a good story to clinch it all together – it is without a doubt, a love story, but with flickers of drama, thriller, and the fact it’s set in space, it is by no means orthodox. An interesting, easy-watch film which was far enough from a traditional romance that it sparked all my other interests; it wasn’t mind blowing, but I’d happily get it on DVD. Verdict: 6/10.

 

Rogue One: Review

Rogue One: Review

(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is ©Lucasfilm and does not belong to me)

In loving memory of Carrie Fisher.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was perfect for what it set out to be: both something, and nothing, to do with the real Star Wars franchise that I have been following since the first trilogy in the 1980s (not that I watched it until I was actually born). It was a story that was set in the Star Wars galaxy (or universe?) but with completely new characters that we have never seen before, and will never see again. It was a ‘one off’; based in between the original trilogy and the ‘prequels’ of the early 2000s, it tells the story of the rebels who fight to get hold of the Death Star plans, in order to roll straight into the plot of Star Wars (the 1977 original). It was just what we needed.

There was a bit of a jumpy start, with our protagonist who appears unwilling, and after someone pointed it out to me, I was very aware that this was the third white, brunette, female protagonist we have had written into Star Wars. However, Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) held her own against the rebels (until she became one of them); her skills with a blaster were great, but I also didn’t doubt them after discovering the background the character had.

I have always really enjoyed the Star Wars universe and its films, and was glad that this time the production made the decision to show us where the action was taking place, especially considering it jumped from planet to planet, and rebel to Empire. Speaking of the Empire, Darth Vader’s occasional scenes were fantastic; it makes sense, considering this was when he was his highest point of power and still climbing. I was glad that they involved his character so much, whilst also refraining from making him the central villain for the film in order to keep it away from the main franchise.

The score was new and refreshing, but still in keeping with the traditional Star Wars themes we all know and love. There were interesting sets, and the plot was easy to get invested in as an audience member, because (even though the characters are new) it is a world we already know and understand – there was not as much need for world building. One of my favourite things about Rogue One is that the stakes are truly, utterly, phenomenally high. I was constantly on the edge of my seat, worried for the characters; it’s breathlessly fast towards the end of the film, and it feels like an incredibly close call even though we have the hindsight and knowledge that the rebels do get the Death Star plans. It didn’t matter that I knew that, I was still anxious for all the characters and cared about them – even the new, sarcastic, robot companion.

All in all, Rogue One was a success. The timing for it’s comic relief was on point; the film was fun, exciting, dangerous and well developed within the Star Wars world and its various branches. Lets have another Star Wars Story, and bring on Episode VIII. Verdict: 8.5/10.

Wolf By Wolf: Review

Wolf By Wolf: Review

By the author of The Walled City, Ryan Graudin, Wolf By Wolf is one of the biggest “what if”s of the 20th Century: what if the Allies lost World War II? What if the Axis, mainly Germany and Japan, won the war and Hitler managed to pretty much take over the entire world? It’s a massive idea, and Wolf By Wolf is somehow capable with dealing with it on a manageable scale, resulting in an interesting story that follows individuals set in this frightening wider world.

Our main protagonist is Yael, a sixteen year old Jewish girl who also happens to have been experimented on as a child, resulting in her ability to “skin shift” – she can transform into any female, with any physical appearance, that she wants to. This has also led to her lacking a personal identity, which is looked at throughout the book and definitely struck a chord with me. It’s an interesting notion that works in well with our modern world, its interconnectivity and the idea of people becoming ‘international’ – or, more personally, how people can have a ‘third culture’ and lack identity for a certain place, instead choosing their identities based on other aspects of their lives.

The year is 1956 and Yael’s mission, as you might expect, is to kill Hitler. The way to get close to him is for Yael to win a cross-world (from Germany to Japan) motorbike race which is usually reserved for teenage boys – I won’t go into much other detail, as I try to make these reviews spoiler free, but all I will say is that Wolf By Wolf is worth the read to find out how Yael gets on with her mission. The book is fast-paced, with thought-provoking insights to a world I’m glad we didn’t have as a future. The only problem I had with Wolf By Wolf is that it is quite an easy read; the concept was good, but the language didn’t challenge or create an superbly vivid descriptions. As a fast reader who was only reading in drips and drabs at work, it only took me three days. If I had been able to sit and read it through, I think it would have taken me a day, a day and a half at most.

A mix of both a young adult novel and historical fiction, I found in Wolf By Wolf the action was quite light, which contrasted with the historical events and their seriousness (such as the labour and concentration camps). Sometimes, the fear I felt I should be feeling for the characters and their predicaments was not as intense as I thought it should be, considering the brutality of the Nazi regime and the genocide that took place. Even in Yael’s life, it’s historical brutality, and the action that takes place in her present did not make me particularly anxious for her safety.

Saying this, I read it quickly because I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know – needed to know what would happen, and had to keep reading whenever I got the chance. Wolf By Wolf may have been occasionally too light, but there was enough action and oh-so-many cliff hangers that my interest was constantly peaked, and there was never a dull moment.

True, classic young adult fiction with a zesty twist of “what if” history, Wolf By Wolf is a good, strong, juicy start to what I know now is a duology looking into this thought-provoking alternate timeline. Blood By Blood is the follow up, which I will be getting from my local Waterstone’s as soon as I can. Verdict: 7/10

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Review

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: Review

(disclaimer: the poster used with this review is ©WarnerBros and does not belong to me)

Yes, I am very aware that this review is almost an entire month late, with Fantastic Beasts being released in the UK on the 18th of November, but on the off chance you haven’t seen it and are pondering whether or not you should – here is a review to help!

This film is first in what J.K.Rowling has announced as a series of five movies based in the 1920s-1950s, surrounding the dark wizard Grindelwald, his rise to power, and his relationship (and ultimate demise by) a young Albus Dumbledore. However, Fantastic Beasts both thrusts this idea on its audience at the beginning of the movie and then only has a sprinkle of hints to it throughout the rest of the film, before bringing it back in full force as an interesting finale – as the title suggests, the rest of the film focuses on finding (or, I should really say, recapturing) some ‘fantastic beasts’ that have managed to get out of a magical suitcase, although this does feel like a secondary plot.

Fantastic Beast‘s main protagonist is Newt Scamander, although a lot of the film follows him and a muggle he befriends called Jacob Kowalski. It also gives us an insight to American wizards’ way of life, their traditions, and the difference between them and the British wizards that we have met throughout the Harry Potter series. Set in New York in the 1920s, in Fantastic Beasts we also see segregation of ‘no-maj’s (muggles) and wizards, which made me curious as to whether this was a nod to the segregation that people of colour faced at the same time (even though this wasn’t apparent in the back drop of the film, which I think they could have made more effort to involve).

I found it really interesting to see a Harry Potter’s Wizarding World film that focused on adults who were comfortable and fully “trained” in their magical abilities. As it was set in the city, it was also nice to get an idea of wizard’s and witches’ daily life, although I wish there was something set in 2016 because we still have never seen the magical world as it stands today (interesting fact for those who don’t know: the Battle of Hogwarts took place in 1998).

Overall, Fantastic Beasts was a good, strong film that held its own in the Wizarding World franchise; I enjoyed Eddie Redmayne’s acting although his character’s awkwardness was not what I was expecting. I wondered if it might stereotype Hufflepuffs considering one of the only other Hufflepuffs we have met was Luna Lovegood, but I enjoyed the style nonetheless. The best thing about Fantastic Beasts were (shock) the beasts themselves – as with all Wizarding World films I’ve seen, the effects were great and I loved the different magical creatures we met and were able to learn about. Most of these, I’ve been told, did come from Scamander’s book “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” so it was nice to these come to life on the big screen.

Saying this, the plot for Fantastic Beasts was borderline ‘okay’; I was surprised by its quirks, and it proved J.K. Rowling’s ability to write – she was responsible for the screenplay. There was good direction from David Yates but I wasn’t really sure of the main plot and the battle-fuelled ending of the film, which dragged the magical creatures into a secondary plot line (which was weird seeing as they were the film’s title). As well as this, during the final battle the dueller’s spells ‘touching’ really annoyed me (book nerd alert); I understand it is used for visual effect, but the whole point if this effect is that it is only supposed to happen with Harry’s and Voldemort’s wants because they have the same core material.

I’ll be honest – I wasn’t particularly excited going into the cinema to watch Fantastic Beasts, but after seeing it I am excited for the future of J.K Rowling’s Wizarding World and the stories it has to offer. My only other issue with the film itself was the surprise reveal at the end of this film, and the casting of Grindelwald, but I will wait to make a judgement until we see him properly in the future films.

Fantastic Beasts was varied in pace, and the magic was great – but apart from the beasts, there wasn’t anything new or unexpected in terms of characters’ magical abilities. Though the plot was a little busy, it was a good film overall which has set up the future plot lines well and made me excited for the Wizarding World to be back in my life. Verdict: 7/10.

Doctor Strange: Review

Doctor Strange: Review

(disclaimer: the poster that is used with this review is ©Marvel Studios and does not belong to me)

I am a big fan of the Cinematic Marvel Universe – I don’t pretend to know as much as other people, having never read Marvel Comics, but I still feel like I know my fair share about what’s going on in the Universe they’re creating for the screen. So I had pretty high hopes for the latest Marvel film, but Doctor Strange was one superhero I hadn’t heard much about before going into the cinema. All I knew was that Benedict Cumberbatch had been roped into playing the title character – and he did not disappoint (even if it did take a while for me to get over his American accent).

For another origin story (as Marvel bring all their strings together for the showdown of the century in Avengers: Infinity War, so the rumours go), Doctor Strange provided an interesting character and a good story line. Doctor Stephen Strange, played by the great Benedict Cumberbatch, is the second out-right selfish character we’ve followed in the Marvel stories after Tony Stark (Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr). Saying that, I was happy to see that in comparison to Iron Man, Stephen Strange seems to learn much more quickly how to get over this selfishness. After all, much of his self-interest and aggression stems from the loss of his hands in the first ten minutes of the film; to Stephen Strange, the celebrated neurosurgeon, the loss of his hands shouts a loss of identity and makes him question all of his self-worth.

Doctor Strange follows Stephen as, after he alienates himself from everyone who cares about him and loses his livelihood, he sets out to find a way to fix himself. But somehow on his journey to find and fix himself, Stephen Strange ends up becoming what is – in essence – a magician. After that, it’s as simple as saving the world from a giant, inter-dimensional enemy. Though it seems a similar plot to a lot of other superhero origin stories, I was pleasantly surprised by Doctor Strange‘s ending; it was an interesting, unique final battle, and unlike anything we have seen before.

More than that, there were some parts of Doctor Strange that were visually stunning – look out for some inter-dimensional travel and what the characters call the ‘mirror dimension’. Though impressive CGI, it can sometimes feel like you are looking through a kaleidoscope, and didn’t do much except confuse me for a couple of minutes; but I get the impression that that was the point, as the characters struggle with their quickly-changing surroundings. On the other hand, the fight scenes were wicked, including one that takes place between two astral-form characters. Also, watch out for the appearance of Doctor Strange’s cape, I honestly laughed out loud.

Unfortunately, the cape was one of the only things in Doctor Strange that made me laugh; most of the attempts at humour fell flat, and some of them seemed forced when otherwise the film was quite a serious piece, focusing on Stephen Strange’s struggle to make peace with his disability. Of course there were moments of humour that worked, and a few witty lines that reminded the audience that we were still in the 21st Century (given that you’d probably otherwise forget); but for the most part it was a more sombre origin story than others Marvel have done for, say, the likes of Ant-Man.

However, there is a trend with male Marvel superheroes I’ve begun to notice that Doctor Strange confirmed. Currently, they’re all caucasian… and a lot seem to have a male sidekick or friend of African descent (Thor, Iron Man, Captain America). My initial question is why? I’m excited for Black Panther and his origin as the first non-caucasian title character, but otherwise, why is it that white men are leading as title characters, whilst having a black companion? To say it’s to fit in with the “look” of characters from the comics is just not good enough. Plus, let’s just think briefly of Tilda Swinton’s casting as the Ancient One – it diverts hugely from the Doctor Strange comics and just felt… weird. If you’re looking for ethnic variety in a film, make it variety, not just one or two characters with a different ethnic background while the rest of them, even minor characters, are white.

Ultimately, Doctor Strange was a success. It was a fascinating watch; good, solid acting from most of the cast, amazing visuals and some thrilling fight scenes. However, I missed the lightheartedness of some of the other Marvel films, and I think it’s time we changed up the origin-story formula. Verdict: 8/10.