Justice League


Viewed – 27 March 2018  Blu-ray

After the critically panned yet commercial smash that was Batman V Superman (a movie I stand by as not being as bad as they say), we get this excuse to bring together several notable (and less notable) figures from DC comic’s illustrious history; namely Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), The Flash, Aqua Man and Cyborg, when a centuries old, banished demon returns to claim three powerful cubes that if united will give him the power to conquer worlds.  Yeah, the villain, Steppenwolf is basically Apocalypse from X-Men er…Apocalypse, but minus Oscar Isaac’s charisma, although by no means is he an unappealing adversary.  Then we get the problem that Superman is dead, but there may be hope of resurrecting him if Batman’s plan works out.

Justice League

Some people like to focus on a person’s imperfections.  The same can be said when it comes to movie criticism, and I’ll admit I have been guilty of that in the past.  However I am also a strong believer that some imperfections can be forgiven if they don’t ruin the overall experience.  One such example is the rather luke-warm reception given to this latest entry in DC’s attempt to rival Marvel’s cinematic universe, which for the most part the company has fallen in the shadow of constantly.  Yet having sat through it’s refreshingly lean-2hrs I came away wondering what people had issues with.  The story whilst not anything ground-breaking is perfectly suitable and engaging to bring together these characters, and a witty script handles many egos together on screen particularly well, giving each individual a moment to shine.  I especially enjoyed the slightly out-of-his-depth Flash and I found the otherwise unfamiliar Cyborg intriguing with his semi-Frankenstein’s monster backstory.  Affleck again proves himself a worthy Batman / Bruce Wayne and thankfully Henry Cavill’s Superman gets some great moments also, with his resurrection handled rather well.  Add to this a wonderfully likable (and damn sexy) turn from Gadot’s Wonder Woman and I found myself mostly buzzing from this.

The troubled development with director Zack Snyder having to pass the reigns to Joss Whedon is barely noticeable unless scrutinizing the tone of every scene.  Amy Adams’ Lois Lane is a little side-lined but that’s to be expected with so many characters to focus on, and there’s some questionable CGI / green screen moments.  Oh and that bit with Superman sporting CGI moustache-removal (in one brief scene) is a tad jarring. Also I’d have liked a bit more focus on the villain and just how he seems to psychically know the whereabouts of each ‘hidden’ cube. Thankfully such shortcomings are made up for by plenty of great action, superheroes kicking butt and bags of personality.

So ignore the nay-sayers, ‘cause this one’s definitely worth a watch.

Verdict:  3.5 /5

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Top Ten 2017


It’s that time of year again and once again I’ve compiled what I feel are the ten best movies I managed to see this year.  Note: some may be older than 2017.

10.

Your Name

your-name

‘A beautifully animated, heart-warming, emotional and funny body-swap drama’

9.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Valerian_

‘Pure escapist entertainment at it’s finest.  Luc Besson is back’

8.

Wonder Woman

Wonder-Woman

‘DC gets it right and one of the most purely enjoyable comic-book movies in years’

7.

War for the Planet of the Apes

War-For-Planet-Of-Apes

‘Full of heart and emotion and spectacle.  The most satisfying rebooted franchise ever’

6.

Annabelle Creation

AnnabelleCreation

‘Atmosphere, well-judged scares and solid performances make for a surprising sequel’

5.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

‘Cleverly structured and powerful relationship drama with excellent performances’

4.

Gerald’s Game

Geralds_Game

‘A Stephen King adaptation that does a great deal with a very simple premise’

3.

Train to Busan

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‘Korean genre cinema at it’s finest.  Action, thrills and a surprising amount of heart’

2.

Hacksaw Ridge

Hacksaw-Ridge

‘A powerful true story with expert direction and great performances’

1.

Logan

Logan_

‘An incredibly effective take on a familiar character turned into a road movie with powerful performances and genuine grit …  and Hugh Jackman deserves an Oscar’

 

Honourable mentions:  A Street Cat Named Bob, Hell or Highwater, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2

Nocturnal Animals


Viewed – 13 May 2017  online rental

How could I pass up a movie starring two of my favourites?  I tend to enjoy almost anything with Amy Adams or Jake Gyllenhaal and consider them two of the best around right now.  This latest effort has Adams as a high society, somewhat pretentious art gallery owner who when we meet her has just held her latest exhibition (something to do with overly obese women dancing around naked).  One day she receives a manuscript off her ex (Gyllenhaal) who she hadn’t heard off in a while.  Adams is currently in a rather loveless relationship with Armie Hammer (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) but quickly finds her own past with Gyllenhaal echoed in the pages of the violent thriller he’s sent her.

Nocturnal Animals

Director Tom Ford’s highly atmospheric drama has a great noir-ish mood with an eerie style not unlike something by David Lynch or Alfred Hitchcock.  This is aided well by a haunting orchestral score from Abel Korzeniowski.  However the structure … the fact the movie jumps back and forth from Adams’ present circumstances, her past with Gyllenhaal and the story within the manuscript, which plays out like a revenge thriller … is all it’s own and makes this not your average movie.  It’s an intelligent study of a relationship, about regret, revenge and bitterness but done in such a way that I found particularly gripping.

Michael Shannon (Man of Steel, Boardwalk Empire), increasingly an actor I’m impressed with lends the movie a degree of intensity as a character in the manuscript, and Gyllenhaal is again convincing even if we mainly see him in the manuscript setting (I’d have liked a bit more explored of his motives in the real-life segments but that aspect is mostly left to your imagination).  Amy Adams is again very good and particularly nuanced making a generally unlikable character sympathetic as the movie draws to a close.  The point that is reached felt a little ‘…and?’ but that’s small thing for what is otherwise a clever and engrossing experience.

Not for everyone, but I came away rather impressed.

Verdict: 4 /5

Arrival


Viewed – 17 November 2016  Cinema

I went into this in the hope of something a bit different.  The trailer promised a more realistic version of say, Independence Day with less bombastic action and more character and believability.  Well thankfully that’s exactly what I got … and more.

Amy Adams

Amy Adams, easily one of my favourite actresses right now plays a linguistics professor who following the arrival of a series of immense objects at various locations across the globe is called in by the military to help communicate with the ‘aliens’.  The opening scenes of this movie were very well done, memories of a baby, who grows into a little girl, interspersed with the stark reality of the arrival, news footage, global panic and a incredible feeling of dread … gave this a different, more human feel than what I’d normally expect from such material.  It clearly was focusing of Amy Adam’s character and how her experiences might guide her through a very challenging and uncomfortable experience.  Jeremy Renner, another favourite plays a scientist on hand to assist Adam and help her figure out a strange language.  Now I’ll admit I was never fully on board with how they start communicating and translating what is basically a series of circular shapes, but well … Hollywood.  Yet the performances here, suitably ominous direction and some clever-ass writing made this a great deal more than I was anticipating.  The first half of the movie is a tad slow and I was thinking this was getting a bit boring … but then a twist changes all of that and made me re-think much of what I’d seen and well, brought in comparisons to Interstellar … which is all I’ll say on that.

For an intelligent, at times poetic alien invasion movie, and with strong performances across the board with only the translation thing my only nit-pic then I’d say check this one out.

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