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"The Amazing Spider-Man 2" Review

It is absolutely no secret at all that I wasn't a fan of the first Spiderman reboot movie. I think that the very fact that it was made out of a necessity for Sony to keep the Spiderman rights returning back to marvel, says straight away the film is going to be half assed, and guess what? It was. That is not to say that I had negative preconceptions about this sequel, after all, now that Sony have safely kept marvel getting their, supremely creative, hands on this property we can hope for a much better film that is created for the love of the characters and the story rather than exclusively for business interests. Well maybe amazing Spiderman 2 was made more for entertainment and less to keep marvel away from a top tier character, but that doesn't mean that this is a good film in any sense of the word.
My main problem with this rebooted franchise is that, apart from using the names of characters and loosely creating a universe based on some sort of approximation of what it is in the comics, these films are just not true to the source material. I get that I must allow for artistic license and that the film makers like to reinterpret stuff in their own vision, I really do get that. But I feel that if the same approach was taken with, for example, the Harry Potter films, Harry would be a blond haired kid from Chicago with a bad attitude and a crescent moon scar on his elbow, that went to Pigboils college of paganism and magic, in space. Maybe that example is slightly exaggerated, but my point still stands. As a comic book fan I want to see the characters that I have read about for many years come to life on screen just like any Harry Potter, hunger games, Twilight or middle earth fan likes to see. This is something that the original trilogy was able to achieve, doing fan service while still reinterpreting the material. Exploring relationships between Peter Parker and anchor characters like J.Jonah Jameson and Norman Osborne, is almost like the bread and butter of the Spiderman story, but these are the Characters that are sadly missing from this franchise, and, if you will allow me to use the Harry Potter metaphor again, to demonstrate how important these characters are to the myphos of Spiderman, it would be like the Harry Potter movies missing Snape, a secondary character, yes, but so, so vital to the story.
Fan boy whining aside, AS2 had many other issues, one of the most prominent is the painfully long 142-minute runtime that is saturated with a pointless on again, off again romantic subplot between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. I know that Spiderman can do angst with the best of them but this whole subplot could have easily fit into a 90-minute film with some serious and much needed trimming down. The run time ultimately leads to some pacing issues, I felt myself falling asleep several times when I watched this, and that had never ever happened to me before when watching a new marvel movie for the first time, I love marvel! I should not be falling asleep! That is not a good sign!
Now onto the character motivations, I found myself constantly asking myself during this film "why?" I could not fathom, for the most part, the reasons or motivations of anybody doing anything, especially the villains, there are better motivations for characters in Spider-Man 3 and that is saying something!
The sound and music of the film is something else that I took issue with, I don't usually comment on the sound of a film, even if it is really good, because I believe it is at its best when it is unnoticeable. Sound and music should covertly enhance the film, not intrude and interrupt as it does in AS2, the music doesn't work at all, maybe that is just a personal preference, but I don't think AS2 will be winning any awards for sound in the near future.
And now we come to one of my biggest pet peeves, inconsistent physics! How can webbing be strong as steel in one instance but be cut with a knife in another? How can a superhero be able to catch a police car but not be able to punch through a windscreen? Lazy writing that's how.
This isn't the worst film in the world, unfortunately, I have seen worse, but what it is, is a lazily put together story with an a-list superhero. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are great and have brilliant chemistry, the visual effects are great and I don't think that I have ever seen Spidey look so good web slinging. Unfortunately, all of these redeeming features do not lift this film anywhere near the greatness of anything produced in house by marvel studios and that makes me really sad because Spidey is my favourite character to read, as I'm sure, he is for many people but he has quickly turned into my least favourite character to watch and somehow Sony have managed to make this sequel just that little bit worse than the previous film.

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"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" Review

In my review of the first Captain America film, my general opinion was, although it was a good film, it was probably the worst of the bunch when considering all of the other in house Marvel productions. Maybe that was for the best for the first avenger because; the rise in quality has been all the more meteoric! I can very happily say that with The Winter Soldier, Cap has moved his franchise up the ranking significantly from one of the worst to one of the best.

One of the reasons, in my opinion, that Cap has gone up in my approval ratings, is the much needed change of directors. We have changed from Joe Johnston, who, apart from Captain America: The First Avenger, has films like The Rocketeer and the remake of The Wolfman in his CV, to the Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe established TV directors. Not the obvious choice, admittedly, but bare with me. Joe Johnston was perfect for the job in the first film because, it was essentially a period piece, but the whole thing needed to be steam-punked something that he was able to do in his previous film, The Rocketeer, to great effect. Joe Johnston’s eye gave the first Captain America iteration a great look without which, it would have probably have fallen flat on its face, without his input into the production design, costume department and cinematography we probably wouldn't have a second Captain America film to speak of, that’s how important, I believe, the look to the first film was. That being said The Winter Soldier is a very modern film, right on the fringe of being an all out sci-fi, I feel like all the assets that the director of the previous film brought to the table would have been a very large millstone around The Winter Soldier’s neck. Because we live in such a modern world already and this sequel is meant to be set in the present day the look of the film has to be at ease with it self sort of nonchalant, I think in the hands of Johnston, we may have had a production that would look like the 2015 section of Back to the Future 2.This is not what today looks like... unfortunately.    

The Russo brothers have done an amazing job with Cap 2, the action on it's own is so impressive, one scene requires Captain America to take down a very large flying thing (trying to be vague, because of spoilers) and the way it is shot and choreographed makes it totally believable. But any reader of comics, like myself, will tell you that action in comics is very much on the back burner, what makes these stories great is, well, the story! This is why the choice of directors for this film is perfect, choosing TV directors to tell a story, a very complex double crossing, double agent type of story (well very complex for a comic book movie, anyway!) is a stroke of genius because these brothers are not used to Michael Bay sized budgets to blow tons up and fill the screen with unrelenting action at the sacrifice of the story. These un-jaded fellas have had their skills honed for, no doubt, many years on TV, telling stories, and it really does show on screen.

At the core of this movie is Steve Rodgers and his struggle to adjust to the 21st century. The film really highlights the contrasts of the definition of what constitutes national security between 1940's and the 21st century. An issue that should resonate with the audience as we live in a world where, our rights as human beings are often infringed upon in the name of preventative measures. 
One of the problems that I had with the previous film is that; because Captain America is a squeaky clean character, he can also come across as a little bit bland (the Superman Factor). Chris Evans is obviously not to blame, as he does a stellar job, but when he has not got a lot to work with his hands are kind of tied. The screenwriters have remedied this problem, quite ingeniously, because this feels more like an ensemble film than it does a Cap movie. The story really takes advantage of the interesting characters of Nick Fury and the Black Widow, effectively taking the strain off of Steve Rodgers uninteresting persona to carry the film on his shoulders alone. Some would argue that Natasha Romanoff caries this film, in fact I think this film is the closest we are going to get to a Black Widow film for quite a while yet.

Unfortunately that is pretty much all I can say about this film, as it is one of those films that are really hard to review without revealing spoilers. Just trust me when I say that there is a hell of a twist that literally changes the course of the MCU.

With all of these improvements made upon the original film, The Winter Soldier has turned into everything that a sequel should be.... better! This film is fun, engaging and enjoyable in everyway. From a fan boy point of view it also does a lot to expand on the already massive MCU and that can only be a good thing. It ticks all the boxes to make a really good comic book movie and I would go as far to say that it is second only to the masterpiece that is the Avengers movie.

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"The LEGO Movie" Review

In recent years Lego has become no stranger to mainstream success, evolving way beyond its original popular toy status and branching out into all sorts of media, so naturally a full motion picture was going to be inevitable.

One might be tempted to categorize this movie in the same sort of genre as the efforts made by Hasbro in recent years- that would be a mistake on your part, because the quality of this film is way above anything I would have expected.

Going into this movie I really did struggle to figure out what it might be about, as Lego has got its fingers in so many different pies, it makes toys for dc and marvel as well as star wars, Harry PotterLord of the Rings and so many other amazing franchises. I assumed it might be a dc Lego movie, as the studio distributing the film is warner bros. I was wrong though, this film is about Lego, in every sense of the word, this is truly a Lego movie. 
For me, the great thing about Lego is that it is only limited by imagination and the Lego movie really plays to that, this film is kind of all over the place, it seems to have an attention span of a four year old that has just had a whole tub of coffee ice-cream, but that is not really a bad thing, as soon as one idea is done, and explored, its time to move onto the next one because that is what Lego is all about! Because of this we get to see all sorts of characters from Gandalf to Dumbledore, from Green Lantern to Superman and of course the spaceman! The scenes of the story are constantly shifting as well we get to explore Lego cityscapes, the western frontier, utopias and dystopias, all of this eclectic story telling just makes the concept of the film better because Lego is just too versatile to be limited to one genre setting.

The look of the film is great, adopting a YouTube Lego animated video type look, makes the whole thing just look brilliant, I really think avoiding the use of CGI for the most part was a great production decision. Adopting stop motion makes the film stand out as something a bit different as you very rarely see stop motion animation these days (or any traditional animation really!) But it also has the effect of taking you back to your childhood days where you would imagine what the little figures were saying and doing, this movie makes you feel like you are playing with Lego!

The cast of this film is absolutely amazing with voices from the likes of Chris Pratt and Elizabeth Banks in lead and many amusing cameos such as Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum as Green Lantern and Superman respectively. The real gems are in the supporting cast with Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson using their iconic voices to great effect and of course you have got to mention Will Arnett as Batman because HE'S BATMAN!

I went into this film thinking that it might be a bit of fun and good for a giggle or two, what I did not count on is coming out of the film thinking everything about this is awesome! (You'll get the reference if you've watch it) some might call this a 101-minute advert for a toy company, but I call it a reminder, a reminder of everything there is to love about Lego.

I can safely say that anybody that did not enjoy this film has obviously never played with Lego or have forgotten what is like to live in the magical world of your imagination. If that is the case I suggest you revisit your childhood and watch this film again because everything in the Lego movie IS AWESOME! Recommended.

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"Gravity" Review


Movies can quite often get people talking, the generic chat often referring to short descriptions on how the audience found the film, whether the film is “good”, “bad” or just “alright”. Less often though, the film is described using words that have more syllables than the solitary one, such as “fantastic” or “abysmal”. Then there are the films like this one, a film that can’t really be described in one simple word, vast though the English language is, I can’t quite keep a description of this film to a single word, to do so would not only be an injustice, but also fail to describe the feel and look of the film accurately. Gun to head, if I were to have to shorten down how I feel about Gravity into some sort of headline, it would have to be “technically outstanding”. Because for me, that is the thing that really stood out with Gravity, wondering how the director, Alfonso Cuarón, managed to achieve the things that he achieved on screen.

To say that this is a good-looking film would be an absolute under statement. From the opening shot of a magnificent spacewalk, it is like the director is saying, “look what I can do!” and what he can do is truly astounding. The astonishment inevitably continues and becomes even more impressive for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the feature when you realize that there have been no visible cuts in the action. The camera seems to effortlessly drift in and out of all of the goings on like it, itself is not at all limited by trivial things such as gravity. Suffice to say that this is a film that is best viewed at the cinema, preferably in 3D, or on the biggest TV you can manage so you can really revel in the torrent of eye candy that is pouring out of the screen at you.

Gravity is not just for people that admire good camera work, direction and special effects though, the sheer realism of the world that the film makers have created, really contributes towards the narrative of the film, it makes the audience feel the uneasiness of our main protagonist, Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, I myself was found suffering from a little vertigo while she was feeling queasy from her first space walk. At the same time I was also allowed to feel the wonder that was felt by the space loving veteran astronaut, Matt Kawalsky, played by George Clooney. Somehow the director managed to convey the feelings of the surrounding by every character and as a result the whole film makes you very empathetic, or to put it into Internet terms- you feel ALL the emotions!

As you can probably tell from the trailer or synopsis for this film the main narrative, is the story of some astronauts that are fighting for survival, but what sets Gravity apart is that those fights are fought in both the emotional and physical states. When anybody is put into that sort of high stress situation where the survival of a person is not very likely, the mind inevitably comes to a fork in the road; either choose to fight for your life, something that might seem completely futile, or, decide to give up and welcome the cold embrace of death. That is a battle that is constantly present in Gravity, the question of “what’s the point?” is ever present, after all as the script very kindly informs us at the beginning of the film- “life in space is impossible” this feature of the narrative takes the film well above the confines of your run of the mill survival thriller and makes for a compelling and relatable story.

If you can not tell by my ongoing praise with in this review, I think that Gravity is a very good film indeed, I don’t usually try to make Oscar predictions but if this doesn’t win the Oscar in 2014 for best special effects I will be very surprised and I think that it should at least be nominated for best director also.

Because of the ground-breaking nature of Gravity I can’t help but make comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey as that was also a technically astounding film set in space, the difference being, Gravity appeals to film buffs and mainstream audiences alike, also the fact that it isn’t a complete mind f**k also helps. Unlike 2001, this film isn’t out to confuse it’s audience and the final shot of the film really drives home the films title and makes for a satisfying conclusion to one of the best films I have seen this year. Recommended.


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"Thor: The Dark World" Review

Thor is a franchise that I have grown very fond of over the past few years; it has consistently proven to me how entertaining it can be despite the extremely old Norse source material. Whether it be the silver age comics that I reluctantly started to read, and found them second only to Spiderman for entertainment value, or the first film that pleasantly surprised me with its seamless transition to the big screen oozing with its Shakespearean prowess. Once again, with the second (or third, if you count the Avengers) iteration of the Thor story, committed to the big screen, my preconceptions have been squashed by the powerful mjolnir.mjolnir

I thought, with the exit of the Shakespearean seasoned Kenneth Branagh as director this sequel would suffer, as some of its, for lack of a better word, class, would have dissipated along with the grandiose feel of the production. How wrong could I have been? The Dark World improves on its predecessor in almost every way. Quite a feat if you look back at my review of the original Thor film, you will see that I gave it a pretty good score.

Some people would say that the first outing of Thor was a little bit stuffy and slow paced, I would disagree, as I said, I think that the dramatic Shakespearian atmosphere that Kenneth Branagh brought to the film added a bit of class. But if you’re not happy with the franchise going in that direction then what other way is there to go? Well the Game of Thrones way of course! That’s why getting seasoned GoT director, Alan Taylor onboard was a masterstroke by the producers of TtDW. The biggest difference I can see is the character of Thor has been allowed to develop into maturity, he is no longer an arrogant bulk of muscle swinging a hammer, but a responsible conscientious ruler-in-waiting, swinging a hammer. The character is handled well by Chris Hemsworth but the director guides him expertly. This of course goes across the board with all the cast, but a special mention has to go out to Stellan Skarsgård for “revealing” his talents. I just felt a lot more invested in the whole cast to the point that, if they died in a game of thrones sort of way, I would actually care quite a lot (like in game of thrones).

 Of course there is plenty of action and thrills to be experienced with in this film, a kind of film making that director, Taylor, seem plenty comfortable with but the real meat of this film lies in the relationship between Thor and his estranged brother Loki.Loki, God of mischief Tom Hiddleston is arguably the star of this film giving the villainous Loki a real human side yet still managing to keep you guessing what his motives are. He literally steals every scene he is in, but this is what we have come to expect from Tom after the stellar performances he has given in the past two marvel cinematic universe films.

 If one criticism could be made, it is that the story once again falls back on a McGuffin, this time it’s called the “Aether” but it could just as well be called the Tesseract, oogamafliv or Dave, it really doesn’t matter, but that is the nature of the McGuffin isn’t it? This is a very small criticism though as, I said in the previous paragraph the true story is in the character development and relationships between characters (and Stellan Skarsgård hidden, or rather, unhidden gifts).

 Thor: The Dark World is an improvement on an already great franchise, it expands the size of the MCU dramatically and it also furthers the story of all of our favorite characters from the Thor movies in significant ways. It has done justice to all of the fans like me out there and has got me crossing my fingers that there will be a third installment at some point in the future.


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"Kick-Ass 2" Review

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"RED 2" Review

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"The Worlds End" Review

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"Looper" Review


I love a good time travel movie, out of all of sci-fi it is probably my favourite sub genre. The only thing you have got to admit though is that is has been done to death, almost to the point of the recent trends of found footage films. Refreshing then to see that Looper has taken a unique although, flawed approach to this genre.

Not flawed in the sense that this is a bad movie but in the sense that the temporal mechanics are all over the shop. I hope you will forgive my indulgence in time travel theory for a second, but I love this stuff! To my mind there are two types of causality in time travel, there is the temporal causality loop (The Terminator, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and the alternative timeline time travel (Star Trek, Back to the Future Part 2). I personally prefer the temporal causality loop and I think if this was used in Looper it would have been fantastic, and it was, kind of. The problem is that aspects of the alternative timeline method was used as well, this results in a very sketchy time travel mechanic, sort of timey wimey wibbly wobbly state of affairs. In my opinion the temporal causality loop would have been the way to go, after all the clue is in the title of the film.

Questionable story mechanics aside the main gimmick of this film was Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing a young Bruce Willis and I’m sure this is what drew most people to see this film. Gordon-Levitt flawlessly impersonated Willis in every mannerism and he really does need to be recognised for character acting of the highest standard. I do have a problem, however with the make-up. In an effort to make Gordon-Levitt look like Bruce Willis, something that no other film in the history of films has ever bothered to do, they make Gordon-Levitt look like a person that has a fetish for blue contact lenses and forehead implants and frankly it is distracting. Gordon-Levitts’ acting is good enough without the make-up, and to cover up his face does him a great injustice. With so much emphasise on the makeup and the quest to make the two lead actors look like each other, you would think that a lot of effort would be made in a sequence where young Bruce Willis “slowly” morphs into old Bruce Willis, nope none what so ever, one shot we have Joseph Gordon-Levitt and in the very next shot with have Willis in a wig. In an age where we can make Richard Nixon come back to life or young Arnold Schwarzenegger  appear butt naked in a film he had no part in, you would think that we could make the transition from young to old, a bit more smooth.

Despite things like time travel paradox and bad makeup this still manages to be a great film. What Looper lacks for the pedantic nitpicking side of  my brain it makes up for with beautiful cinematography and production design. Looper certainly portrays one of the most believable futures that I have ever seen on film, with everything looking so high tech and modern but at the same time lived in, and worn down, such as hover bikes that just won’t start. The cinematography portrays vast vistas of cityscapes and contrasting farmland, lending another dimension of realism (just because it is the future doesn’t mean that the countryside suddenly disappears).

As previously mentioned the acting in Looper is outstanding especially from Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Emily Blunt plays her part as a hardened mother who lives on a solitary farm quite well. Special mention has to go to Pierce Gagnon, who plays one of the most terrifying characters I have seen in a good few years, he is only a boy but he has such an intimidating look and way about him that you have absolutely no problem believing him as a villain.

Looper may have flaws, but its virtues far out shadow what is wrong with the film, this film looks great, it has a stellar cast that are at the top of there game and most importantly the film feels original and for me that is one of the most important things in cinema today.


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"Ted" Review

Ted probably isn’t the place to come for good honest family entertainment or pretentious Woody Allen-esque introspection. Instead, Seth MacFarlane delivers everything you would expect from him, but what American television won’t allow him to do in a roller-coaster of lewd humour, pop-culture references and killer lines that are so close to being totally offensive you wonder how the hell he gets away with his brand of humour. 

The opening, narrated by Patrick Stewart, kicks off the movie, making sure that your eyebrows are set to raised, your jaw is ready to drop and your belly is prepared for a good amount of laughter. The story starts with a friendless and shy, eight year-old Johnny, who, wishes his toy bear Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) into existence one stormy night, creating a loyal buddy for himself in the process.

MacFarlane then spins us quickly through 25 years, in a terrific, E. T.-referencing montage, before dumping us back on the couch, where Mark Wahlberg’s thirty-something Johnny (now just ‘John’) and his cynical bear friend are found smoking bongs and indulging their love of Flash Gordon. Both of them have grown up, but neither of them have, really, if you know what I mean; a fact that frustrates John’s high-achieving girlfriend (Mila Kunis), who urges her man to dream beyond his next beer.

This film, it should be stressed, is not Family Guy: The Movie. There’s plenty of DNA in common with MacFarlane’s brilliant animation, few could miss the similarities between Ted and Peter Griffin, not even Ted, or the fact that half the cast of Family Guy appears within the film. But those who have missed the wonder that is Family Guy are still well catered for by some sharp writing and a winning comic performance by Wahlberg. He delivers the kind of loose charm and comic timing that Adam Sandler used to have, and, in one tongue-twisting race through trailer-trash first names, flaunts all the verbal dexterity of Busta Rymes.

I could go this whole review without mentioning it as it is such common place in film these days, but, major kudos should go to the film’s FX boffins. Utilising Avatar-grade technology, they’ve created a wholly believable central character who gives you no doubts that he came from a shelf in a toy shop. If Monsters, Inc. made fur fly in an animation, Ted brings incredible detail and emotion to a live-action environment, and I believe the comparison to Pixar is whole heartedly deserved.

Of course there are flaws, although Seth MacFarlane is a well seasoned voice actor and has plenty of experience with in the “business” it would have been quite a feat if his first feature came out perfect. The odd American pop culture reference joke whizzes straight over the head of a British audience and the climax sacrifices laughs for a compulsory chase sequence and predictability full to the brim with sentimentality. But the sheer quality of this production makes, those potentially huge problems into tiny little niggles that are not really noticeable.

As a fan of Macfarlane’s, Ted is all that I hoped it to be, yes it does follow a story arc that we have all seen before, but it is that very fact that gives it the ability to surprise, yes it is a little off balance but it is also extremely fun to watch. If you are a fan of Macfarlane, you will love this, if you are not, you may just be one once you have seen Ted. Recommended.

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