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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Thor Ragnarok


Viewed – 13 March 2017  Blu-ray

I had heard a lot of good things about this and confess to really enjoying the Thor character and the lore surrounding him, even if I like many was underwhelmed by the last solo Thor outing, Dark World.  In this third instalment, sandwiched somewhere between Avengers: Age of Ultron and the forthcoming Avengers: Infinity War, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is captured by a demonic being who is said to bring about Ragnarok, the end of days for Thor’s home world of Asgard.  However he sets about preventing this only to return home and find step-brother Loki up to his old tricks again, this time impersonating their father Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  However a turn of events brings another family member out of exile in the shape of Hella (Cate Blanchett) who vows to claim her rightful place on the thrown of Asgard even if it means killing everyone who stands in her way.

Thor Ragnarok

It would be easy for me to yawn at this plot, it being yet another Marvel disgraced family member coming out of the woodwork and vowing revenge against those that shunned him (or her).  It was done in the previous Thor movies and also (spoiler!) Black Panther, that it’s now getting very tired.  Thankfully then that isn’t the entire focus of this movie.  Oh no, firstly the dialogue is particularly sharp, with very funny banter from various characters, especially a wonderful, awkward buddy set up between Thor and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).  Add to this great support from Jeff Goldblum as the other-worldly ‘grand master’, several quirky side characters (the hilarious rock dude) and of course a still brilliant Tom Hilddleston as Loki – and this was just great entertainment throughout.  The movie treads a careful balancing act between all out comedic farce and straight up action adventure, but somehow manages it, and even if Cate Blanchett’s villain is a walking cliché, the actress usual screen presence and charisma stands out and has such a cool design, familiarity can be forgiven in this instance.

It’s often better when these kinds of movies don’t take themselves too seriously, whilst still managing to deliver great action, memorable characters and gob-smacking spectacle.  This is one such example. Highly recommended.

Verdict:  4 /5

Wonder Woman


Viewed – 01 June 2017  Cinema

Despite many people’s misgivings about Batman V Superman, few could argue that Gal Gadot’s sensual Wonder Woman was a particular highlight.  Her appearance kept viewers eager for more, and so we have this origin story that focuses on how Diana (who funny enough is never referred to as Wonder Woman) came to be involved in a mission during (interestingly) the first world war.  Quickly we’re introduced to Diana’s fantasy world of Amazonian warrior women and a loose connections to Greek mythology.  There we have Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) as the reining Queen and also Diana’s mother, as well as the queen’s gutsy sister played by Robin Wright (House of Cards), who despite seemingly a departure for the actress, proves a good fit.  However their peace is soon interrupted when an American pilot Chris Pine (Star Trek) crash lands at their shore, and Diana comes to his aid.

Wonder Woman

This plays mostly like a fish-out-of-water adventure with some well observed comedy and sharp dialogue, helped immeasurably by the chemistry between Gadot & Pine who spark wonderfully off one another.  The WWII backdrop also means we get plenty of action and thrills within a fun ‘dirty dozen’ escapade.  When Diana gets to kick ass too, its a sight to behold, superbly choreographed and well, she’s very appealing to the eyes (where did they find this beauty?).  The movie is a tad over-long and degenerates into typical over-powered villain verses overpowered hero showdown, and well some of Wonder Woman’s super-human powers aren’t fully explained (she can easily toss a tank aside with one hand).  Add to this an avalanche of CGI where some acrobatics began to look a bit cartoonish once people are flying around left right and centre.

However this has it where it counts; with colourful characters that work well with each other, a decent script with plenty of humour and some excellent set-pieces.  DC seem to have turned a corner with this one, so on such evidence, I can’t wait for Justice League!

Verdict:  4 /5

Logan


Viewed – 21 March 2017  Cinema

It would be easy for me to write this off as just another Wolverine movie.  After all I didn’t entirely miss his (generally) absent status from X-Men Apocalypse, and well the character has been milked to death.  But from initial images showing a more grizzled, aged Wolverine and early positive hype I thought I’d give it a go.

Logan

No question though, Hugh Jackman was born to play Logan/Wolverine.  He has all the grumpy but likeable personality perfect for such a tortured character.  This latest take see’s him departed from his X-Men colleagues sometime in the future when many of them are believed dead and all he has for company between trips away as a grumpy limo driver, is an aged, half senile Dr Xavier (a heart-breaking Patrick Stewart).  So along comes a Mexican woman and a mysterious girl (a star making Dafne Keen) who she wishes for Logan to transport across the border to a ‘safe haven’ known as Eden, where more people like her and Logan himself are seeking refuge.  On their heels is a scenery chewing villain (Boyd Holbrook) and a megalomaniac scientist (Richard E Grant).

Dafne KeenWhat surprised me was just how brutal this latest Wolverine movie is.  We get beheadings, vicious stabbings and dismembered limbs-a-plenty and it seriously doesn’t hold back.  Some of the violence and the general tone here is light-years away from what I’m used to seeing in a comic book movie and it really helped this spring to life … especially in brilliantly executed (pun intended) action sequences that are amongst the best in the genre.  Director James Mangold has delivered a confident and mature road movie that is held together by three strong central characters and their slowly developing bond that makes this much more meaningful and powerful than I could have expected.  This is one of the most intense and gripping comic book inspired movies I’ve seen in a long time and in the closing moments I can honestly say Jackman deserved an Oscar nod.  But we know that won’t happen for this sort of material, unless perhaps you happen to die in real life (ahem…Heath Ledger RIP).

Simply put – go see this movie.

Verdict:  5 /5

Doctor Strange


Viewed – 07 March 2017  online rental

A brilliant neurosurgeon (Benedict Cumberbatch) suffers a car accident that leaves him with injuries to his hands … his tools you might say.  So with the fear his career might be in shambles, he seeks out some of the worlds greatest surgeons.  However all refuse or fail due to the extent of his injuries, and so Strange is forced to seek out more spiritual methods and stumbles upon a centuries old battle to save the world.

Doctor Strange

Special effects have come a long way and pretty much anything is possible on screen.  So here you get a kaleidoscope of visual wonder that seems to initially borrow from that ‘turn the city upside down on itself’ moment from Inception and run with it.  It’s dizzying but opens up a wealth of possibilities only limited by a director’s imagination.  Cumberpatch is perfectly cast, charismatic, a little bit arrogant and really looks the part complete with a great goatee.  Supporting him is Tilda Swinton as a mystical ‘ancient one’ – think Morpheus from The Matrix if you think of Strange as Neo.  Add to this welcome but under-used support from Rachel McAdams as Strange’s sort-of (but not really) love-interest, and also Mads Mikkleson as a rogue student who’s trying to bring about Armageddon more or less with the help of a giant CGI face.

Tilda SwintonIt’s all wonderfully bonkers and should probably be taken as such as it lacks  emotional weight or personal stakes and largely washed over this viewer, despite several exciting sequences (a chase through parallel dimensions for example).  Thankfully Cumberbatch and especially Swinton help make everything work to an extent and this makes for good entertainment that’s also surprisingly funny at times.  What the concept might bring to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (hinted especially during the end credits) is ripe with potential … but despite touching on such possibilities, only delivers a partially satisfying experience.

Verdict:  3.5 /5