Thursday, 18 February 2016

'Deadpool' video review

Hey guys! My friend Ryan has just put up a review of Deadpool on YouTube. He is just starting out with this kind of thing, so check out his review, hit like and post your thoughts in the comments. If you're feeling extra nice, you could of course also subscribe!

Thanks guys! Hopefully I will get around to posting my own review sometime soon.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron review

The Avengers return, but does it live up to the hype?

As the sequel to 2012’s 'The Avengers' (released in the UK as 'Avengers Assemble'), one of my favourite films of recent years, I naturally had a lot of expectation for this year’s sequel from the moment of its announcement. This excitement only increased with every subsequently released nugget of information regarding the plot and characters, and again with each still or piece of concept artwork.
It seemed as if this film, like all great sequels, would have everything great about the first film amplified to new levels of excellence. This film was going to be an epic which would make the first film seem embarrassingly subpar by comparison.
So, did the film live up to my expectations? Let's get to the review and find out!

It was great fun to see Iron Man, Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, Black Widow and the Incredible Hulk back together in the opening action scene fighting villains and bouncing writer/director Joss Whedon’s trademark snappy dialogue off each other once again, and it instantly felt as if you were back together with a group of old friends as the film began.

A common complaint with the previous Avengers film was the side-lining of characters Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widdow (Scarlett Johansson, left) in favour of other, more familiar characters. However Age of Ultron gives both Hawkeye and Black Widdow more screen time, fleshing out their characters and backstories throughout. This extra development also adds more depth to the team as we now have a better understanding of these characters’ motives and their relationship with their teammates. In addition, new characters Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlett Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) lived up to their hype and were both welcome additions to the Avengers line-up and definitely characters I would like to see more of in future entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Of course, one of the biggest talking points surrounding this film has been its titular villian, the highly advanced robot, Ultron (pictured below right). Marvel have attracted some criticism in recent years regarding the villians in their films as many believe that most of them have been unmemorable or poorly developed, with the exception of Tom Hiddleston's character Loki. However, I am pleased to say that Ultron was certainly one of the more intruiging and memorable adversarys we have seen so far in this series, but he was not without faults in my opinion.
Visually, Ultron is spectacular, looking very threatening and also true to his design from the comic books. James Spader also does a great job of voicing the character and giving him personality, even if he is basicly a robot.

However, I felt that Ultron’s motivation in the film was somewhat unclear. This  was frustrating since it is typically the most intriguing aspect of the character for me. The original idea behind Ultron in the comic books is that he is a robot programmed with the aim of protecting the Earth from any threats. However, he soon decides that humanity is the biggest danger to Earth and that the best way to protect Earth would therefore be to wipe out all human life. However, in the film, this idea seemed only to be glanced over briefly before Ultron simply became another villain for the heroes to stop, robbing the film of a potentially interesting theme.

We also didn’t really get to see Ultron do any major damage similar to what he has been known to do in comic book story lines such as ‘Avengers: Ultron Unlimited’ where he and his clones wiped out the entire population of a small country. Perhaps something as extreme as that would be a little too much for a film of this kind, which is of course trying to also appeal to the family market, but it would have been nice to see something which displayed just how dangerous and evil Ultron can often be.

Despite all this, Ultron was far from being the worst villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far. In fact, I would argue that he is one of the better ones that we have seen. Ultron does have several memorable, intimidating moments throughout the film through both his dialouge and his actions.
He certainly has a lot more personality than, say, Malekith, the villain from Thor: The Dark World, but he often feels to be lacking a consistent amount of threat.

I felt like this film often touched upon interesting ideas and themes, but none of them were ever fully realised. It feels as if there is a really great character study somewhere within this film that is struggling to get out. Director Joss Whedon actually said that the original cut of the film was around 4 hours long, so there was a lot of stuff that had to be cut out to save time. It would be great to see an extended cut of the film at some point on dvd, as I believe that even just adding an extra 30 minutes or so to further flesh out some of the characters and plot points could greatly improve the film overall.

Still, despite these gripes, Avengers: Age of Ultron did thoroughly entertain me from beginning to end and all the things that made the first film great are still here; Joss Whedon's witty dialogue, some stunning set pieces, a continous sense of fun throughout and a great cast who have now all grown comfortably into their roles. A mention should also go to the special effects, especially those used to bring the Incredible Hulk to life on screen, which are even better than those in the previous film.

While this film may do little to redefine the superhero genre, it is still a more than satisfactory addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and will no doubt be welcomed and loved by all fans.

Rating: ****

Agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments, or tweet me @daniel_bb8

Friday, 14 August 2015

Dredd review

Today I've decided to shine some light on an overlooked gem from 2012; Dredd directed by Pete Travis. The film is of course based on the 2000ad comic book strip Judge Dredd, set in a post-apocalyptic America, where most of the country is an irradiated waste-land and the population live in a huge 'Mega-cities'. With unemployment high and crime rampant, a police force known as the Judges act as Judge, Jury and on-the-spot executioners, with Judge Dredd, played to a tee by Karl Urban, being the toughest of them all.

Judge Dredd and new rookie Judge Anderson, are sent to a 200-story apartment block to investigate a drug clan and its leader 'Ma-ma', played with malevolence by Lena Headey, who have taken control of the block, using it as a manufacturing plant for a time-altering drug known as 'Slo-Mo'. Upon their arrival, Ma-ma seals the Judges inside the block and orders for them to be hunted down and killed. As you would imagine, chaos ensues.

Despite it's limited setting, the film is able to perfectly capture the run-down, crime-ridden and general unpleasant nature of Mega-City One from the comics, making this a much more authentic adaptation of Judge Dredd than the 1995 film which starred Sylvester Stallone. It would have been nice to see the a bit more of the Mega city, but what we do see looks fantastic, with high production values bringing the comic book to life and disguising the film's relatively small budget of $45 million.

The film frequently employs use of slow-motion to effectively represent the perspective of 'Slo-Mo' users, often cutting between this perspective and regular speed during action scenes, switching from the viewpoint of the Judges to the gang members. This creates stylish, exciting action sequences which are very well shot and easy to comprehend, something which is often lacking in action movies today.

The strong performances, particularly Olivia Thirlby's, are what stands out most in the film, with Karl Urban also offering a downright perfect portrayal of the titular Judge Dredd. Of course, in keeping with the classic tradition of the comic strip, we never actually get a full view of Dredd's face as it is mostly obscured by the iconic Judge's helmet. However, this did not stop Karl Urban from throwing his all into the role and delivering a very memorable performance.

If you are a fan of comic book movies, or even just action and sci-fi movies in general, I highly recommend that you give Dredd a watch, as there is a good chance many of you will have missed it the first time around.

Rating: ****

Agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @danj_101

Friday, 18 April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

If anyone still has any doubts about whether the likes of Captain America can still hold their own in solo movies in the wake of The Avengers' brilliance, it's time to get rid of them! Not only is Captain America: The Winter Soldier far more than a mere stop-gap between Avengers movies, it also manages to be one of the most satisfying entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe thus far. With a range of hugely enjoyable and memorable characters, both old and new, brilliant action scenes, as well as a plot which tackles today's political issues of government surveillance and security, Captain America: The Winter Soldier really is more than your standard blockbuster.

File:Anthony Mackie as Falcon.jpgThis is the ninth film to be released as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second solo outing of the titular Captain, but proves without any shadow of a doubt that the franchise still has more than enough life and creativity left in it to keep it going strong for many years yet.

Chris Evans returns as the Captain and does his usual great job but it's the rest of the cast that really shine. Anthony Mackie plays The Falcon in the character's first screen appearance. Mackie brings a lot of charisma to the role and is sure to make The Falcon a new fan favourite. Fingers crossed that we get to see him join the Avengers in the future!
File:Sebastian Stan as Winter Soldier.jpg
The actor that impressed me the most however was Sebastian Stan in his role as the title villain; The Winter Soldier. Despite having very little dialogue, he remains an intimidating threat to Steve Rogers and co. and is one of the best, most bad-ass villains seen so-far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (he beats Malekith hands down). Reportedly, Sebastian Stan has signed a nine-film deal with Marvel Studios (!) so we will be seeing much more of him soon, thankfully.

Samuel L. Jackson is given more do to in this film than he has had previously in his role as Nick Fury, and Scarlett Johansson is still entertaining to watch as The Black Widow.
Finally, we have Robert Redford as our second villain. He plays Alexander Pierce, a senior leader of SHIELD who may or may not be actually secretly a bit evil (SPOILER: he is!).

The fact that an actor as revered as Robert Redford is in this movie really goes to show just how huge the comic book movies of today are. Especially when you consider that Redford turned down the lead role in Superman (1978) as he thought he was too famous. How times change!

In this movie we see that Steve Rogers has already adjusted to life in the 21st century so we thankfully don't get any tired fish-out-of-water jokes regarding the fact that he's from the 40s. In fact, there is very little humor at all in this film, especially when compared to Thor: the Dark World. A lot of the humor in that film verged on slapstick and I definitely felt like they overdid it a bit, but CA: TWS is pretty much the opposite extreme. Despite this, there are a few (intentionally) humorous moments and the film still has a big sense of fun, mostly due to Antony Mackie's performance as The Falcon.

Plot-wise this may well be the best installment yet in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Without going into too much detail, it deals with ideas about how much privacy the people of Earth are or should be willing to sacrifice in order for things such as terrorist attacks to be prevented. Cap's not a fan of SHIELD's upcoming plans related to this idea and eventually ends up going rogue when SHIELD is overtaken by a sinister organisation hiding within it's own ranks; HYDRA. On top of this, the mysterious and seemingly unstoppable 'Winter Solider' is out to kill Cap and anyone else who gets in HYDRA's way.

The ideas of national security and privacy are explored a lot in this film but that doesn't mean there isn't any time for some action. This film has it in droves and provides many memorable set pieces.

I don't usually see films in the cinema more than once, but this one I did and both times I came out thinking that this was one of the best Marvel movies to come out for a while now. If you still have the opinion that Captain America is one of the least interesting characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then this movie will change that for sure!

Rating: ****

Follow me on Twitter: @danj_101

Thursday, 5 December 2013

My thoughts on Wonder Woman appearing in Batman Vs. Superman

As every regular internet user will now know, it has been confirmed that Wonder Woman will indeed be making an appearance in the Man of Steel sequel. After being a plethora of rumors over the last few months, it feels surreal to finally have a piece of concrete information regarding the film, although I have to say that I'm not too sure about the inclusion of Wonder Woman in the film.

First of all I want to say that I love Wonder Woman. She's one of my all time favourite comic book characters, but what we need to remember is that this is (or was) supposed to be a film about Batman and Superman and I think that adding too much extra stuff like this will just lead to a jumbled film with a lack of focus. Obviously, Warner Bros. are keen to quickly expand the DC cinematic universe, but if they want to replicate the box office domination of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they really need to take their time with the films, not just to make sure the films are of a high quality, but also to make sure that these hugely loved characters are done justice (no pun intended).

I'm all for a cameo from Wonder Woman in the film, in order to set up her own film or a Justice League adaptation, but the fact that they have announced her appearance and an actress (Gal Gadot) so far ahed of the film's release suggests that her role will be more than that

The focus of this film should be on Batman and Superman's relationship and whichever villain they end up fighting. With this news, I get the impression more that Warner Bros. really are desperate to get the Justice League movie out within the next three years or so, and there's a chance that this will have a negative impact on the quality of the films.

However, I'm sure that Warner Bros. are aware of the points I've made (I know they won't have been revelations to any film fan) and that they probably wouldn't take risks like this without them being confident in the final product, if they do intend to go head-to-head with Marvel at the box office.

So, even though I'm skeptical about adding another big character to an already huge movie, I'm still drooling with anticipation over the film and I'll be reserving my complete opinion until I finally see the film. Expect a review in 2015! {edit: the film has now been delayed to 2016, so we must wait longer still!}

Click here to see my Man of Steel review.

Follow me on Twitter: @danj_101

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Thor: the Dark World Review

Hammer Time!

Thor: the Dark World is the eighth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the third film to feature the character. Despite this, Marvel Studios are currently showing no signs of stopping any time soon. Almost all the films in the series thus far have been of a very high quality, and Thor: the Dark World is certainly no exception.

The film is set in the present day, meaning that it takes place about a year and a half after The Avengers and two years after the first Thor film. The picture begins with an ancient battle between the armies of Asgard and our main villain, Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) over a force called the Aether. With this Malekith planned to return the universe to a state of darkness, over which he can rule. However Malekith was defeated and the Aether was sealed away. Now, in the present day, Malekith has returned to claim the Aether once again which becomes stuck in the body of Thor's earthling love interest, Jane. Obviously this is a job for Thor!

The film takes itself seriously but there's also plenty of comic relief to balance the darkness. This is, of course, a good thing but at times I felt that it was a little bit overdone. For example, one particularly dark scene is followed by a joke on the subject just a few minutes later, robbing the scene of some of it's drama and impact. The majority of the jokes are still funny, but I think that the film would have benefited from fewer of these moments.

As is to be expected with these films, the cast all put in great performances, particularly Thor's brother/arch enemy Loki (Tom Hiddleston ) who is as menacing as ever despite turning over a new leaf to aid Thor. However, Malekith himself isn't very interesting and doesn't come across as a major threat to Thor. He's not a bad character but he's certainly not as memorable as Loki. I think the film would have benefited more from some more conflict between Thor and the villain. Chris Hemsworth is as fantastic as ever in the lead role and particularly inpresses when sharing the screen with Hiddleston as the two actors show a lot of chemistry together.

The film is absolutely phenomenal on the visual front, with the scenery, costumes and special effects all impressing me throughout. Asgard in particular is a fantastic work of computer animation and the wide angle shots of the city were something I stared in awe at whenever it was on screen. I didn't see the film in 3D but I couldn't help thinking that it would have looked even better when viewed in that format.

I would go as far as to say that this film was as good as the first Thor film and is a must watch for all Marvel fans, even if, like me you don't have much experience with the character.

Oh, and if you are a Marvel buff, there's something very special for the initial post credits sequence! Honestly; it's not an Iron Man 3 style cop out, this one actually leads somewhere!

Rating: ****

Agree/disagree? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet me @danj_101

Thursday, 10 October 2013

ARROW Season 2 Episode 1 'City of Heroes'

Hi blog readers! As you may or may not know, I am a huge DC Comics fan; I love their movies, TV series and comic books. I was extremely ecstatic and hyped when the second season of Arrow was going to air and to be honest, I was lost for words when 'City of Heroes' aired.

ARROW has evolved enormously from being a flawed but fresh series into a beautiful masterpiece that is exciting, adventurous and compelling. I have created a Season 2 Episode 1 review of the hit-series so beware....


ARROW starts off with Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amell), in the present day, in Lian Yu, the Island that he was previously trapped on for 5 years. This is considered to be his fortress of solitude to grieve over the death of his best friend, Tommy Meryln. The first episode consist mainly of the aftermath of the Undertaking, the seismic explosions that destroyed the slums of Starling City, the death of a main cast member,Tommy Meryln, and how the main characters have been coping with the after effects.

The first scene starts off with Felicity Smoak and John Diggle, played by Emily Bett Rickards and David Ramsey respectively, parachuting on the Lian Yu, the island known as 'Purgatory', as an attempt to find Oliver Queen who has disappeared since the funeral of Tommy. The death of his best friend plays a huge part in this episode and series as Oliver decides to quite being the vigilante known as 'The Hood'.

The death of Tommy Meryln could have been seen as an 'attention grabbing' stunt but is in fact  the most crucial part in the season premier as it shows that Oliver Queen was a dark character and needed to become a much more likeable person in order for viewers to sympathise with him.

Oliver hangs up his hood with the belief that he caused Tommy to die and goes into exile for 5 months. Although this may seem to be a familiar superhero process where the death of a close friend results in the hero becoming depressed, Oliver Queen manages to give a dramatic view on why Starling City would be better without the vigilante who failed to stop a portion of the city from being destroyed.

The first half of Season 1 had its faults but when more secondary characters appeared on the show, there was chemistry between them that lit up the show. The Oliver / Felicity / Diggle combination is re-introduced in season 2 and it immediately becomes clear how important this trio of memorable characters are to the show.

ARROW, unfortunately, was guilty of not using Willa Holland to the best of her ability so in 'City of Heroes', she actually contributes more to the show than most of the other characters. Not only is she the manager of Verdant, the hugely successfully nightclub built by Oliver Queen, she gets kidnapped by copycat vigilantes and is forced to reassess her stance of forgiving her mother for her involvement in the Undertaking .

Stephen Amell as The Arrow in 'Arrow' S02E01: 'City of Heroes'
The main enemies in the season premier are the copycat vigilantes known as the Hoods. Angry at the Queens for the involvement of the deaths of their families, these criminals joined together to fight the evil in the city but in more albeit different way. Instead of using arrows like the 'Hood', they have no compassion and spray bullets at any rich politicians that they believe are not serving the people living and suffering in the Glades.

The one thing that I find most interesting about these criminals are that they are normal people, people who's families have been killed or injured by the Undertaking. They were innocent men changed by the destruction around them. their inspiration was Oliver Queen's alter ego, The Hood, who is considered by many to be a murderer and a vigilante.

The death of Tommy Merlyn changes the views of killing of Oliver Queen as he mentions that his friend died believing that Oliver was a murderer. Instead of killing the criminals as Oliver would normally do, he shows compassion and refuses to have unnecessary blood on his hands. He hangs them up on the wall so that the Starling City Police Department can bring them to lawful justice.

As Oliver Queen struggles to cope with the after effects of his mother, Moira Queen, being arrested for her involvement in the Undertaking, he also has to deal with a business rival Isabel Rochev, played by Summer Glau, who is planning to take over Queen Consolidated. Another huge impact on Oliver is the fact that he was unable to stop the Dark Archer/Malcolm Meryln's plan to destroy the Glades and the death of his close friend.

The Hoods interrupt the Queen Consolidated meeting and try assassinating Oliver claiming that he has failed this city. Fortunately, Diggle is on hand and a gun fight ensues. Oliver quickly gets Isabel to safety before jumping through the building window with Felicity and landing on a lower floor using a chain hanging outside the building. The action is immense and it's all every surreal but most
importantly, believable.

I have saved the Island flashbacks until the end of the blog. It's been 5 months since the death of Edward Fyers, and Oliver is training with Slade Wilson and Shado, played by Manu Benett and Celina Jade. These flashbacks help us to understand how the defenceless teenage billionaire became a killing machine and I believe that this is the most important part of Oliver Queens' transformation.

Problems quickly arise, however, as the trio find themselves being tracked by pirates searching for graves of some kind. Splitting up and searching for heat signatures, Shado is kidnapped and Oliver and Slade have to find her before it's too late. They come across a base with a few people torturing Shado. Oliver is disgusted and quickly attempts to rescue her, much to Slade's disapproval.

The band of unknown people are soon dispatched by Slade but not before the pair witness Oliver bludgeoning the torturer to death with a huge rock. This gives the first insight into how dangerous Oliver will become throughout the course of the 5 years that he is imprisoned there.

Another huge thing that I was impressed with was the cameo appearance of Black Canary. I think it's amazing how The 'Hood' has inspired some people to fight evil in Starling City and I really do hope that Oliver does meet the Black Canary. 'City of Heroes' may just be the best ARROW episode yet.

Starling City is a City of Heroes, after all.
Rating: 10 out of 10