Sunday, 28 August 2016

Iron Man Review

So this will now be the first of my comic book movie reviews (not counting Deadpool) as I'm mainly going to focus on the MCU, DC Movies, all other Marvel Movies not in the MCU and some others like Watchmen and Hellboy. So let's kick it off with the first official movie of the MCU: Iron Man.

Actually I'm not sure if this does count as the first as Ang Lee's Hulk technically is the first one as that story continues into The Incredible Hulk (kind of I guess) but I think I'll be doing that one next so that I can have both Hulk movies finished. Anyway onto the review.

WARNING: There will be spoilers ahead.

Iron Man was released in 2008, directed by the excellent Jon Favreau, starring Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark, Jeff Bridges as Obediah Stane, and Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Pots.

I have to admit when I first saw this movie back in 2009 on DVD, I wasn't that enamoured with it. I enjoyed it enough, but at the time it completely flew under my radar as I was in love with The Dark Knight at that point and there was no other superhero film for me and every other one felt inadequate in comparison.

I now realise that I was a dumb kid, and after watching this again in a clearer light, I can admit that it's bloody awesome. I didn't think it would hold up after we've had classics like Civil War and Avengers but it's definitely still one of the highlights of the entire MCU.

There was a lot if weight put on the film's shoulders as it was the one that had to start off the MCU with a bang and have everyone looking forward to future instalments. It basically had the same job that Batman vs Superman had this year except that this one was actually successful.

The story follows millionaire, playboy, philanthropist and the owner of the weapon-making Stark Industries, Tony Stark as he is demonstrating some powerful new missiles for the army when a terrorist group ambushes the group and kidnaps Tony.

Tony is put in a room with another prisoner known as Yenson and they are tasked with building another powerful missile for the terrorists. Of course Tony says to hell with that and builds the first, bulky Iron Man suit to escape.

Unfortunately Yenson doesn't make it as he sacrifices himself to give Tony more time. I loved the first part of the movie here as the action begins straight away and keeps the tension going throughout as you keep worrying that the terrorists will notice what Tony is up to and put a stop to it. There's also some torture scenes which was surprisingly dark for this kind of movie.

It's Yenson's death that really marks Tony's change in character as he completely stops Stark Industries from building weapons and looks to greener pastures for the company. Of course this doesn't make him popular to the rest of the world or to his board of directors, but he is doing the right thing.

I won't go too in depth to the story as from here as it goes to Tony building the proper Iron Man suit that we all know and love, while his former friend Obediah tries to take him down. It does sound pretty basic but it completely works, even if the same villain aspect would get tiresome in later movies (looking at you Ant Man).

Let's have a look at the actors. Needless to say, Downey Jr was just perfect as Tony Stark. This role completely gave him a career resurgence and for good reason. He does quip and make a lot of jokes and just about all of them land. He can hit the serious moments as well, as we would also see in later movies. I honestly can't see anyone else playing this role. Knocked it out of the park.

Gwenyth Paltrow was great as Pepper and has good chemistry with Downey Jr. She just acts as his assistant most of the time, but with her performance you can see that there's some deeper feelings there.

Jeff Bridges was a good, asshole villain that could act like your everyday sleazy business man, but later showed to be something a bit more evil.

You also have Terence Howard as Stark's best friend Rhodes. He was fine in the role, but this was his only appearance as he would be swapped for Don Cheadle in the sequel. I do actually prefer Don as Rhodes so I'm fine with that.

Everything in this movie hit and I really have no issues with it aside from the climax where we get the typical 'villain making a speech to the hero before killing him and that then leads to his downfall'. I really get sick of that in movies.

But still, the action was incredible, the comedy hit and even the plot felt refreshing as this one didn't have the threat of a city or the world being at stake. It was a personal story through and through. Even people that don't enjoy these kinds of movies can find something that they like.

Overall this is a fantastic superhero movie and still is one of the very best around. A perfect start to the MCU and it would be a while before it would be topped. I think this rating is earned.

Rating: A+

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Deadpool Review

Can I just quickly mention that I have the great soundtrack of this movie on in the background and listening to 'Angel of the Morning' again is bringing a huge smile to my face.

Deadpool is a Marvel (not studios) movie featuring who else but the one and only Deadpool. The basic plot of the movie is his revenge against those that gave him his amazing powers and fuck-ugly face.

Ryan Reynolds is in the starring role and in my opinion was the perfect choice for the part. I honestly cannot see anyone else in the role and I'm glad the casting crew didn't get scared after his appearance in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which is a movie I'll get to another time.

Needless to say, this movie is an apology from Fox for that disastrous move, and believe me when I say, it was totally worth the wait.

This movie is just fantastic, and for Deadpool fans, it's pretty much everything you wanted it to be. I would say about 90% of all the jokes land (which is A LOT, believe me) and even people who may not get the various references to other movies the Marvel Universe and just the movie world in general will still find this movie funny as hell. The opening credits alone are golden.

The story isn't too much to write home about, but no one should really care about that in a movie like this. The story isn't terrible at all and it does actually feel very refreshing since just about every superhero movie since the first Avengers has been about the destruction of Earth in some way. Here it's just a personal revenge story.

I have to give credit to the pacing as well as it uses the old trick of showing events in the past mixing with current events, just like Man of Steel did except way better. It's a great move and it gives you a break at the perfect time from the current action and the origin story of Deadpool. I never found myself bored during the entire thing and I'm sure I'll laugh my ass off on a second viewing.

The supporting parts are great as Colossus works great as the guy trying to get Mr Pool on the side of good and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (best mutant name ever) who is the butt of most of Deadpool's jokes.

TJ Miller does a great job of being Weasel, Deadpool's only real friend. I also enjoyed Morena Baccarin as Deadpool's love interest as she's definitely a departure from most other love interests seeing as she starts the film off as a prostitute.

The only character I felt was flawed was Ed Skrein as Ajax (Francis!) who was just unmemorable as the main villain and felt like he was only there because he can match mutant powers with Deadpool. Still he wasn't bad and did well with the material he was given.

I'm trying so hard not to spoil anything because this is a movie you should see without knowing too much going in. I had a blast with Deadpool and I know I will again once I see it again in cinema and when it comes out on Blu Ray. Without a doubt, a superhero classic and one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.

I think it's safe to say that this was my favourite Marvel experience since the first Avengers.

Great action, great comedy, great everything. Deadpool is here to stay.

Oh yeah, and remember to stay afterwards for a great end credit scene.

Anyone else craving a chimichanga right now?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Batman (1989) Review

Some minor spoilers ahead.

Batman (1989) is, of course, a superhero movie directed by the always gothic Tim Burton. The film stars Michael Keaton as Bruce Wayne, Jack Nicholson as The Joker, and Kim Basinger as Vicki Vale. There are a few supporting roles but no one really stands out like the main cast members. Except maybe for Billy Dee Williams as Harvey Dent, mostly because it's fascinating to think of what could have been if he'd been given the chance to play Two-Face.

In this universe, Batman is still only a legend in the city of Gotham and still in the early years of vigilantism. The police are denying his existence to the general public, while the criminals of the streets are in fear of him.

This is shown straight away after the first scene as a mugging takes place in an alleyway (very reminiscent of the way Bruce's parents met their demise). One of the two thugs involved in the crime shares rumours of the mysterious Batman and is visibly afraid. He should be as Batman descends behind them and sends them packing to the nearest hospital. This is a great opening sequence which I think may have been used as a source of inspiration for the excellent Batman: Animated Series a few years later as the opening titles do feel similar to this first scene.

Speaking of The Animated Series, you may notice that score of the movie is same as the score used for the cartoon. It's no wonder they decided to re-use the music as composer Danny Elfman does an excellent job of bringing the world of Gotham alive and the theme will become lodged in your head for a while afterwards.

Director Tim Burton did have his work cut out for him, as mainstream audiences who may never have read a Batman comic in their life would only know the Dark Knight from the show in the 60s featuring Adam West. Burton had to bring out the darker side of Batman in a way that wouldn't feel forced and he does it very well. He does try to mix some of the more camp and comical tones of early Batman with the newer, edgier side which can become a bit messy at times, but for the most part it works quite well.

Michael Keaton works well as Bruce Wayne which a lot of people would have found surprising at the time as he is well known for comedic roles and there was an initial backlash to his casting. I will admit that the Batman character didn't do much for me here and didn't seem too intimidating after the opening sequence. He wasn't bad and easily one of the better Batmen we've seen on screen. I definitely preferred him as Bruce. As Bruce he showed some social awkwardness to be expected from some that spends all night chasing bad guys, and could look clever and in control in a moments notice when it came time for Batman to take charge.

Kim Basinger was fine as reporter Vicki Vale, but needed to be saved a bit too often for my liking. She was great up until she started dating Bruce and then lost a bit of her character to become the typical damsel in distress.

The real gold here to talk about is Jack Nicholson as The Joker. He starts off as cool gangster Jack Napier before falling into a vat of chemicals that deformed his face and turned him into, arguably, the greatest comic book villain of all time. I feel like this performance has been forgotten somewhat ever since Heath Ledger's legendary take on the character. Nicholson is terrific here and steals every scene he's in. He's unpredictable as you never know if he'll kill you or just laugh right in your face. He shows a very comical side, which is reminiscent of the 1960s show, while also showing a darker, murderous side. I do think his change from typical gangster to psychotic villain is a bit too quick, although I suppose you could say that the old, rusted tools that were used to heal him severed his nerves and drove him insane, in one of the more iconic scenes from the movie where he looks at his deformed face for the first time.

I also loved that they went the more 'Killing Joke' version of The Joker as he was given a proper origin story and even has the iconic outfit from that comic. I feel his performance is now underrated as everyone now prefers Heath Ledger's take on the character. Trust me the movie's worth checking out for Nicholson alone.

There are some plot points that I think are way too ridiculous and coincidental, but I won't mention those as they're pretty big spoilers.

The story is pretty basic when you get down to it as it's the classic hero makes the villain and now the villain has to be stopped before killing innocents. It's the characters that bring that story to life and make for a very entertaining watch that any fan of the Caped Crusader can enjoy.

Overall I thought this was a great movie that brought the darker side of Batman to the silver screen for the first time, and until Christopher Nolan came along this was easily the best of the Batman feature films. I would even say that it could hang with a lot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies of today. As it stands it's a movie definitely worth your time and worth buying on Blu-Ray. Also, please just give Jack Nicholson another chance. He's no Ledger but he's still worth a look.

Grade: B+

Monday, 22 August 2016

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace Review

I know just about every critic in the galaxy has said something about The Phantom Menace since it first came out in 1999, but I thought I could come up with something a bit different.
Most other reviews are by people who saw Phantom Menace after already seeing the original trilogy and finding it to be a huge disappointment.
For me, I was only five years old when this came out in 1999 and was my first experience of Star Wars, and my first experience of sci-fi for that matter. I fell in love with this movie back then and Star Wars has been my favourite movie franchise ever since.
From that day on, no matter what negative comment anyone gave this movie I would always defend it as it was a huge part of my childhood. Reviewing this now without having those nostalgia goggles on, I’m saddened that I have to admit that this was a pretty bad movie. I never wanted to be one of those people but I have to rate this one fairly unfortunately, even if it is the film that made me a movie fanatic.
I’m watching the blu-ray version so I get CGI Yoda and not creepy puppet Yoda.
I will say that there is some goodness in this flick, but a half hour’s worth in a two hour plus movie isn’t really that great overall. I guess I’ll start off with the stuff that I liked since that list is considerably shorter.
As few and far between as they are, the action scenes are all pretty good. The lightsaber choreography is well done throughout and usual accompanied by John William’s incredible score.
The last twenty minutes or so is when the movie really comes into it’s own with the three separate battles taking place. The Gungan battle isn’t as bad as you would think it would be even with Jar Jar trying his damndest to ruin it. The battle between the Queen’s guard and the droids is just a basic shooting spree but still enjoyable.

Then we get the fantastic lightsaber battle with Darth Maul taking on Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. As noted earlier the choreography is excellent and Mr Williams has to be commended for ‘Duel of the Fates’ as it’s an awesome piece of music and one of the best of the entire sage, making every swing of a saber feel like an epic moment.
I have to admit that I also really enjoyed the podracing scene, and it honestly feels like the first proper bit of fun in the movie, even if the announcers do get on my nerves pretty quickly.
The special effects are good for the time and a lot of them still hold up today.
Also Ian McDiarmid was great as Senator Palpatine. You could tell that he was having a blast being out back in the role and he played the part of the future Emperor as well as you’d want him too; subtle and only showing glimmering moments of his future evil.
And now sadly we come to the stuff I didn’t like.
I really wanted to like the underwater bongo (it’s a Gungan submarine) scene with the heroes trying to escape a bunch of deadly fish, but it was impossible with Jar Jar just making it cringeworthy with his dialogue and actions.
I’m gonna try and not mention Jar Jar too much as he is the main reason why this movie just doesn’t work and he just brings the whole thing down with his terrible comedy, even going as low as poop and fart jokes to bring any kind of laugh out of the audience.
They do try for a bit of comedy in this but I’m not kidding when I say that absolutely nothing lands. I did not giggle once during the entire runtime.
And aside from Palpatine, I could not find a single bit of acting that I enjoyed. Everyone is just so wooden with no emotions being shown and everyone looks like they’d rather be somewhere else than in this movie. It even happens with Samuel motherf****** Jackson, who is the last person I should be describing as wooden. And I know everyone has slammed him, but Jake Lloyd really didn’t work as Anakin and it seemed very hard to believe that this kid would grow up to become the greatest movie villain of all time.
It doesn’t help that we have the racially insensitive Neimoidian’s who seem to be portraying Asian characters. And Watto who sounds a lot like a stereotypical Jewish man does not help.
And those scenes I described as enjoying earlier are the only ones. The movie starts with a weird pace where we seem to quickly jump from location to location and it never feels like we get a chance to explore these places. We then stop in Tatooine which doesn’t become interesting until the aforementioned podrace. After a short but sweet saber clash we hit the Senate on Coruscant and proceedings slow to a snails pace. We are treated to a committee meeting to discuss the invasion of Naboo and some other stuff I honestly can’t even remember.
Even the damn Jedi Temple is boring which feels like an absolute movie sin and even Yoda isn’t interesting. Thankfully this does pick up to our big final battle but it does feel like forever.
And lastly, why the hell did they (spoiler alert I guess) kill off Darth Maul? He could have been a great villain to keep for the sequels and he had so much wasted potential as a badass enemy of the Jedi. At least Clone Wars did rectify this.
Overall this was quite a bit of a mess and this is coming from someone that didn’t have the originals to compare it to when I first saw it. The pacing’s all over the pace, the story’s uninteresting and the acting and characters just feel lifeless most of the time. The action scenes are very good, but again these don’t happen very often and mostly take place at the end when we don’t really care anymore. I can’t in good conscience give this an F rating as I still do hold some nostalgia and I still did enjoy some of it, but I do have to say that it is definitely a bad movie.
Rating: D