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

Advertisements

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

Batman Begins


Viewed – 06 July 2012  Blu-ray

In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises coming out at the end of the month, I thought it would be a good time to revisit Christopher Nolan’s first of his trilogy, and therefore re-discover the origins of Bruce Wayne and Batman.   Christian Bale plays the billionaire playboy and heir to the Wayne empire founded by his parents, and following their murder, goes on a journey of self discovery that leads him to a Tibetan monastery, where he is trained by Liam Neeson to become a force of vengeance and retribution.

Nolan’s movie is immediately grand and beautifully shot with some gorgeous cinematography especially in the opening moments.  Here he has returned the Batman franchise to its origins, shedding even the comic-book stylings of the Tim Burton era to create a more realistic and gritty experience.  I recall on first seeing this that I felt much of what I had loved about Burton’s movies was gone – the enchantment, the music of Danny Elfman, the gothic architecture and the bizarre characters.  Yet on reflection, perhaps I was a little trapped in the past, and now feel I can appreciate what Nolan has brought to the Batman mythos, therefore getting to the heart of what Batman really should be about.  This is akin to the graphic novels more than the DC comics back in the day, and even though there is humour and some memorable one-liners, the tone is completely different than what has gone before.

That’s not to say we don’t get what we expect from a Batman movie – there are gadgets, a creepy villain in the shape of Cillian Murphy’s freaky Scarecrow and one killer of a Batmobile.  Supporting cast, especially Neeson in a scene-stealing performance, but also Gary Oldman playing against type as the future Commissionaire Gordan, and a brilliantly layered Michael Cain as butler Alfred … are all perfect.  But this remains not just Christopher Nolan’s movie but also that of Christian Bale, who delivers the perfect Wayne / Batman and looks the part, plays the part and is the part  – troubled, heroic, arrogant and above all else – cool.

For story, casting, action and just plane brilliant film-making – this could be the best Batman movie yet made.

Verdict:  5 /5

The Dark Knight


Viewed – 5 August 2008  Cinema

After the minor disappointment that was Indy 4, the big white hope for summer blockbuster supremacy falls to that much maligned comic-book icon, Batman with director Christopher Nolan’s follow up to his highly regarded Batman Begins.  I now realise I need to sit down and watch ‘Begins again as I have forgotten much of it, so kind of come to this sequel afresh and with confident expectations – after all, this is probably the best reviewed summer movie in years.  Now I really liked the older Batman films, especially those directed by Tim Burton who’s gothic sensibilities were a perfect fit for the franchise.  Of course we all know Joel Schumacher F***** it all up with Batman Forever and Batman & Robin…but lets forget those two for now, shall we?

What I do recall Christopher Nolan doing with ‘Begins is reverting back to the franchises’ dark and sinister style, more akin to the comics on which they were based, and I was happy once again to see no ‘Robin’ or ‘Bat Girl’ or stupid villains.  The Dark Knight progresses from such sturdy foundations and this time offers up a much more incredible villain in the shape of the late Heath Ledger’s remarkable Joker, who starting with a bank robbery, proceeds to play various crime organisations off one other in Gotham city and generally cause total chaos.  Step in Christian Bale’s caped crusader to save the day.  Now in amongst such goings-on, we have the love triangle between District Attorney Harvey Dent (a scene stealing Aaron Eckhart), Rachel Dawes (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal this time rather than Katie Holmes) and of course Bruce Wayne.  This gives every character a deeper place in the story, but they are still all out shined by The Joker; a fabulously menacing, creepy, funny and psychotic creation that definitely deserves a nod come Oscar time – sad that Heath Ledger wont be there to enjoy the glory.  If he had not died though, this is the kind of performance that only comes along once in an actor’s career – so rest in peace, Heath – you did it.

OK, the film takes a bit of time getting off the ground, seems a little ‘all over the place’ and struggled to really pull me in – but after the first hour such thoughts are quickly replaced by The Joker’s trail of death & destruction.  This is violent, mature stuff indeed.  One other problem I have is one levelled at the new direction the franchise has taken since Christopher Nolan came on board – and that’s the ultra-realistic style that seems an awkwardly fit with the whole Batman-mythos.  Also in the older movies – Gotham City was as much a character in itself – now it’s just Chicago lit gloomily at night with no shred of its own personality.  Christian Balle is an excellent Batman / Bruce Wayne – and he is well supported by screen legends like Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman even if the roles they are given seem a little beneath such heavy weight talent.   But despite such short comings that more come down to my own thoughts on how Batman should be done – Nolan has delivered an intelligent blockbuster that has a whole lot more going for it than simple pop-corn entertainment.

Verdict:  4 /5