Lights Out


Viewed – 08 September 2016  Cinema

I was certainly intrigued by this concept.  A malevolent spirit that disappears in direct light but is deadly in the dark, who seems to be haunting a small family, that of a single mother and her little boy.  When said boy turns to his older, rebellious sister for help after one too many strange goings on, soon an investigation ensues … subsequently causing the family to look into their own past in the process.

lights-out

Whilst fairly simple in it’s idea I did find this pretty unnerving throughout what with an evil spirit seemingly capable of jumping out from any darkened corner or darkened room.  The maker’s had a field-day with this idea and I certainly got a kick out of the various ways the idea was explored, complete with an effective ‘shooting at the ghost’ sequence.  However the frights don’t exactly come thick and fast and rely a little too much on loud noises and character reactions more than being scary in their own right … which they are but the other stuff dilutes the experience somewhat.  Also I wasn’t keen on the occasional times the spirit spoke … again diluting the scariness by giving it too much character (the remake of ‘Ring’ had a similar misstep).

The casting is pretty decent, although only Maria Bello is recognisable but suitably unhinged as the troubled mother.  I also thought the young actor playing the boy was above average.  Add to this a complex turn from Teresa Palmer who manages to be more than a typical, moody twenty-something.  The final act is also solid and full of action with some novel twists on the concept.  But I did hope for a bit more light to be shed on the spirit’s origins, which sadly is ignored in place of a rather ballsy ending.  So despite good intentions, this doesn’t quite reinvent the horror movie and is a bit too Hollywood with some of its scares … but regardless this was still a suitably creepy and entertaining experience.

Verdict:  3 /5

Captain America: Civil War


Viewed – 06 September 2016  Blu-ray

There seems to be a theme of late in these continuing comic book franchises, that of repercussions and casualties of otherwise heroic endeavours.  First we had Batman facing off against Superman after the fall out from Superman saving the world from the threat of General Zod, and now we have the Avengers turning against each other when a government initiative tries to Police them.  Tony Stark / Iron-Man (Robert Downey Jnr) feels his band of heroes, that he helped put together has caused too any deaths in their bid to save the greater population, but Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) doesn’t feel having to await orders from a higher power is the way to go if or when a new threat appears.  Then in the midst of their conflicted beliefs, Steve’s old friend, elite brain-washed super assassin The Winter Soldier is supposedly linked to a terrorist bombing.

Civil War

This complex plot at least on paper is aided immeasurably by a wealth of solid, at times stellar performances and it’s ensemble cast, that also includes Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and even Spider-Man to name but two, never feels bloated or confused.  The writing is key here and everyone’s agenda and personality gets time to shine and despite a ton of superbly executed fights, chases and battles the focus on character and agendas is brilliantly done.

Iron Man War MachineHowever once again rather vague references to the other movies in the series gets a bit mind-blowing at times unless you’ve you have a cast-iron memory for the Marvel movie cannon (including Iron-Man 3 and Avengers 1 & 2).  Also, I thought how the villain’s master plan seemed to rely on a rather convenient plot development was a little cheap … but this isn’t a movie that follows a tried and tested route and how things eventually turned out surprised and shocked in equal measure … not something we normally get in these kinds of movies.

I had a great time with this as you’ll probably have figured out and along with the last two movies in the Captain America franchise, you can consider this a hat-trick of quality entertainment.  And it delivers the ‘heroes turning against each other’ better than Batman V Superman.

Verdict:  4 /5

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

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

The Bourne Ultimatum


Viewed – 26 July 2016  Blu-ray

So we come to the third movie in this popular franchise and this is where several plot threads begin to get tied off as deadly former assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) searches for the answers he needs to his identity.  Along for the ride this time around in the form of a new ally is Julia Stiles who tries to help Bourne piece together the final details whilst the CIA, headed by Joan Allen try to cover everything up.

The-Bourne-Ultimatum

Paul Greengrass once again takes directing duties and much like the last movie has a flair for shaky camera rapid-fire editing, but unlike Supremacy the plot is at times less coherent and the confusion that blighted that movie’s final act seems to be in full force here.  It’s certainly fun watching Bourne out smart various CIA surveillance teams and uncover skeletons in various closets, but it also means this is probably the most repetitive of the franchise, with the run time mostly dedicated to watching, sneaking, getting into a fight, then more watching and sneaking.

The-Bourne-Ultimatum-This does bring together the storyline of all three movies well and the viewer is given some closure about Bourne even if questions still remain unanswered.  Yet thrilling car, bike and on-foot chases and plenty of action meant I was far from bored.  The movie just needed to have more character moments and a bit more downtime between scenes to catch one’s breath (simple office scenes are filmed like they take place in the middle of an earthquake).  However, this was still entertaining despite struggling to forge it’s own, er…identity and therefore by default is the weakest entry so far.

The Blu-ray is again impressive and is packed with extras including a director commentary and wealth of behind the scenes footage and interviews.  The image is perhaps the best of the franchise up to this point and even though the shaky camera approach causes issues with focus, it’s still pops off the screen.  The same can also be said for the sound which envelopes the viewer in a wall of sound and atmosphere throughout.  A treatment somewhat undeserving but welcome all the same.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5