Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice


Viewed – 29 March 2016  Cinema, 19 August 2016  Blu-ray

Theatrical & Ultimate Edition

(Updated: 20/08/2016) Not for a long time has a concept made me so nervous.  Two of my favourite comic book heroes of all time, pitted against each other?  Why?  I couldn’t understand the need for it other than an excuse to bring Batman back after the Christopher Nolan trilogy wrapped.  I was a big fan of the last Superman movie, Man of Steel and I felt it was exactly the movie we deserved in the modern era, with the shuddering memory of Brian Singer’s Superman Returns pushed from my mind.  The casting of Superman with Henry Cavill was also a work of genius.  Where did they find this guy?

Batman v superman

So we come to the expected sequel and this time the stakes are increased after the fall out from the devastation and destruction at the end of the last movie.  Unbeknown to us at the time a certain playboy millionaire was in town by the name of Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck) who witnesses the destruction.  Unaware who this new hero is and witnessing what he is capable of, he vows to step in when a media and government backlash sets out  to discredit the man of steel’s name.  On hand to further blacken Superman’s image and raise awareness of ‘what if this man was to turn against us?’ is local tycoon Lex Luthor (Jesse Eisenberg) who gradually manipulates everyone including Wayne / Batman until both caped heroes are forced into a confrontation.

WonderWomanSitting down to the extended ‘ultimate edition’ a few of my issues with this movie got fixed, with more light shed on how Superman becomes so disliked and how Luthor manipulates public opinion against him.  However not much has changed as far as the script is concerned and on a second viewing some of those pivotal lines are even more cringe-worthy (‘do you bleed?’ for example…).  Also despite more evidence to support Batman wanting to actually kill Superman, it still doesn’t ring true for the character as we have come to know him.   However in the hands of director Zack Snyder the whole deal looks incredible and the action throughout is superbly executed with stand outs being a great Batmobile chase and of course the eventual smack down does not disappoint and plays out well … until that is they find a reason to stop.  Yeah once you see it it’s pretty corny (even more so on a second viewing ‘why did you say that name?’).  Also casting throughout is decent with Holly Hunter on hand as a conflicted Senator, yummy Amy Adams again perfect as Lois Lane and newcomer Gal Gadot damn sexy and bad-ass as Wonder Woman.  Jesse Eisenberg is also having a ball as Luthor … but proves rather annoying and overly pantomime.

batman-v-superman-ben-affleck

But the movie still has problems.  It’s jam-packed with characters which causes it to feel bloated.  A wealth of flashbacks and dream sequences throw in some confusion and just feel lazy.  Also the writing stumbles in key areas such as the main narrative and how Luthor seems to know everything (including certain people’s alter-egos), which is not explained (even in the longer cut).  There’s also a bit too much setting up for Justice League.  With that said … production, style, action, encounters, performances (with a surprisingly spot-on Affleck) and a few bold plot developments still impressed.

The original theatrical cut battled against plot issues for everything it did right.  The ultimate edition only slightly improves things with some welcome details helping it all work better – but that doesn’t make for a great movie … just an entertainingly flawed one instead.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

10 Cloverfield Lane


Viewed – 16 August 2016  Online rental

I really liked Cloverfield, one of those hand-held shaky cam movies that are like marmite to some people … it was a tense, thrilling take on ye-old alien invasion plot and the prospect of a sequel although not something I expected, certainly appealed.  Then I was to learn that this movie bares very little resemblance or connection to that movie other than the word Cloverfield. So I suppose I went into this not really knowing what to expect.

10 CLOVERFIELD LANE

Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) plays a woman seemingly running out on her boyfriend, but on route to wherever, is involved in a car crash – and soon wakes up in an underground bunker under the watchful eye of John Goodman’s ‘Howard’.  Howard’s a bit creepy though and fears she’s been kidnapped come immediately to mind until he starts saying the world has become contaminated and some sort of incident has occurred on the surface.

I liked this set up.  Very claustrophobic, with just these characters for company.  Helped then that we get some very strong performances, especially Goodman who drifts unnervingly between creepy, likable and psychotic, leaving this viewer constantly trying to figure out his agenda.  Winstead is also very good and rather resourceful as a woman who clearly knows how to make the best of a bad situation.  However the movie stumbles a little in it’s characterisation … it deliberately vague about who these characters are which proves frustrating, especially as with Goodman you never know what to believe.  Also where the movie ends up going is particularly predictable even if the final scene proves quite exciting.

Overall I had a good time with this.  It threw in some surprises (especially a bit involving a barrel), I enjoyed watching things play out and the tension was pretty thick at times.  I still have no clue what’s the significance of the word Cloverfield is though.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

Only Yesterday


Viewed – 13 August 2016  Blu-ray

I love the movies of famed Japanese animation house ‘Studio Ghibli’, which I have made no secret of and collect pretty much anything they have done.  So it was sad to hear about the studio closing and greatly anticipate their final feature ‘When Marnie Was There’ which releases on Blu-ray in the UK in October.  For now I have stumbled upon this much older release which has been given a long-awaited western release outside of it’s native Japan with a brand new English dub for those who don’t favour the original language.

only-yesterday

This tells the story of Taeko, a young woman who whilst travelling to the countryside, finds herself reminiscing about her childhood and at the same time trying to figure out her place in the world.  A gentle, whimsical tale not unlike more recent Ghibli movie ‘From Upon Poppie Hill’.  So you’ll find no sorceresses or magic castles in this one folks, as it’s more of a drama about life, love, growing up etc.  It’s all done in an utterly charming way with great voice work from it’s cast most notably The Force Awakens’ Daisy Ridley.  However despite interesting flashbacks and keen observations of puberty, childhood, friendship etc. I did find my mind wondering, and once Taeko reaches the countryside the story does start to plod quite noticeably to the point that watching flower picking, cooking and family meals got a bit boring.

Thankfully the art style, all hand-drawn traditional animation is beautiful – the flashbacks are done in soft-focus almost water-colour and modern day is all vibrant and brimming with detail.  Also the character of Taeko was well realised and I did find myself relating to her, causing me to reminisce over my own schooldays.  Yet it’s a movie that takes a long time to get to it’s point, focusing on the mundane a bit too much (as some Japanese animation has a tendency of doing) and is a story that’s simply ‘nice’ rather than all that engaging.  If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli it’s still worth a look, but for me, the studio has done better.

The Blu-ray looks lush…very sharp and colourful and only slightly soft I guess when the movie requires it.  The English dub although only in Dolby 2.0 is clear and works well.  This isn’t a particularly atmospheric movie so don’t expect it to wow in that department – although that closing theme song was quite lovely.  The extras are slightly above average for a Studio Ghibli release – storyboards, behind the scenes of the voice casting, a detailed (subtitled) making of and some trailers.  So decent treatment for an enjoyable if not exactly essential movie.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

The Witch


Viewed – 12 August  Blu-ray

Usually each year there’s one horror movie that gets hyped up by the media as being the scariest movie of the year or words to that effect.  This is one such movie, although I usually take such hype with a pinch of salt.  After all I’ve been stung in the past (cough … The Blair Witch Project … cough).

the-witch-thomasin

Set in New England sometime in the 17th century, a deeply religious family are banished from their plantation after the father’s belief’s don’t concur with that of the town elders, and so they set up home on a small farm complete with a horse, a couple of lambs and a black goat called Phillip.  However one day their baby boy vanishes mysteriously following eldest daughter Thomasin playing with him, and superstition and paranoia creep in.

The_Witch_WilliamThis slow burning, decidedly creepy movie boasts several excellent performances especially from Anya Taylor-Joy as pubescent daughter Thomasin and Ralph Ineson as struggling father William.  As crops fail and fears of what lurks in the woods build, I was thoroughly drawn in.  It’s a simple tale told with gradual intensity and authenticity.  Even the dialogue is accurate, old-English which some viewers (myself included) may take a bit of getting used to (think a less poetic Shakespeare).  However as the plot develops it’s clear this is exploring some very dark stuff … freaky religious imagery that seriously disturbs and evil that may or may not be all in the family’s heads.  The ending especially is one of the most unnerving conclusions to a movie I’ve seen in a long time and left me shaken.

Writer & Director Robert Eggers has crafted a unique experience of a movie, not really like anything else around right now and fills it with gorgeous photography and foreboding atmosphere.  It won’t be for everyone however; it’s dialogue is tough, it’s slow and it’s not really about gore or jump-scares (although there’s a stunning one towards the end).   Yet for me, somewhat burnt out on the usual horror subjects like masked killers and haunted houses … this was refreshing and incredibly effective.

Verdict:  4 /5

Suicide Squad


Viewed – 09 August 2016  Cinema

In the lead up to this movie’s release and the surrounding hype, I began to see this as potentially DC’s answer to Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy – that being a refreshing, new spin on an increasingly tired comic-book movie genre, and various images, trailers and the casting was looking very promising.  But I’m getting a little head of myself.

suicide-squad

A government initiative headed my Viola Davis decides to bring together a group of imprisoned super-villains in hope of having someone to throw into the shit in case said shit goes down and they don’t want innocent lives put at risk.  These folks are expendable you see, killers, crazies and well, nobody’s going to miss them, right?  So step up former psychiatric therapist Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), assassin for hire Deadshot (Will Smith), deadly walking arsonist Diablo and talking man-shaped reptile Killer Croc, amongst others.  However after a powerful sorceress escapes and starts to wreck havoc on the city, Viola Davis has no choice but to put her plan into action.

JokerIt’s a cool idea and certainly fun seeing these recognisable (and not so recognisable) faces team up and fight for the good guys, and I thoroughly enjoyed their interactions and banter, with several funny lines.  And well, when these guys kick ass it’s a sight to behold.  It also helps there’s a killer soundtrack here too (Eminem, The White Stripes, The Rolling Stones to name but a few). Margot Robbie as I expected steals the show as the spunky, sexy and homicidal Harley and is clearly loving her character.  Also it was great to see Will Smith back in action and he doesn’t disappoint, even if for him he seems a little restrained by a bloated cast.  Also on hand is Jared Leto as Joker, who has presence and looks disturbing and is a joy to watch – despite not have much to do than continually try to kidnap Harley, a disappointment considering how pivotal the character has usually been.

However, the surrounding plot is flimsy at best and despite some interesting backstories and decent if somewhat repetitive action, the whole point and where the movie goes is weak.  I also came away thinking Viola Davis and her military cronies were a bunch of idiots with a scheme that seemed to fall to pieces from the off.  Also I was puzzled at some of the line delivery especially as most lines seemed pretty sharp whilst others were barely audible.  With a more involving plot and dropping of a couple of the less interesting characters (that Australian guy was pointless), more focus on Joker and less on a sorceress whose motives aren’t explained … this could have been amazing.  As it stands it was simply good fun.

Verdict:  3 /5