Tag Archives: comic book

Avengers: Age of Ultron


At the Movies

Another year another round of superhero films from Marvel with the second big team-up film Avengers. This comes in at a time when the previous successes have put Marvel and Disney firmly at the top and this has resulted in reactions ranging from plain old snobbery to petty childish tribalism about an imaginary war between the big two comic book companies and their film studios. This episode of the Avengers may not have the excitement of being the first time round but it has as much action and epic battle scenes and of course the snarky humour is there. It does seem to be a bit rushed at times and director Joss Whedon has already promised an extended Bluray release.

This film does an ideal job taking us from the events of Marvel’s phase two films and setting up the next phase of films with references that will be spotted by fans of the comics. The team work together much more fluidly and this is readily apparent in the opening big action scene as the team invade the fortress of Hydra’s Baron Von Strucker in a fictional East European country.

They are trying to recapture Loki’s staff which they know Von Strucker has being using for human experiments, two of those experiments being Wanda and Pietro Maximoff, twins who now have very different superpowers. If you saw X Men: Days of Future Past you’ll have good idea that Pietro is a speedster similar to DC’s Flash. Wanda’s power is harder to describe but she fires waves or focused blasts of destructive force which is about the best representation I can think of for describing her probability bending powers. Equally dangerous are her mental powers that can induce hallucinations.

After their successful mission the Avengers and their friends have a celebration but Tony Stark and Bruce Banner have a little private meeting to discuss using the staff’s technology for Tony’s Ultron programme, an AI for robots that Tony wants to build to defend Earth from future alien invasions. They leave the programme running after seeing its first few attempts are failures and join the party to play with Thor’s hammer. This is when Ultron is born and he gate-crashes the party and steals the staff.

That’s enough plot as any more and it will be spoilers. I’ll just mention that Vision is created in the film’s second half and he is another great character with impressive powers that allow him to go to toe-to-toe with Ultron’s main body. It’s great to see Paul Bettany promoted from a disembodied voice to playing such powerful and iconic Avengers character and I look forward to seeing more of him.

This film is bursting at the seams with characters and some scenes have hit the cutting room floor just for the sake of the running time. Fortunately Hawkeye definitely gets a little more focus almost as an apology for his limited part in the first film. There is something that seems to be developing between Bruce Banner and Black Widow. There is the same witty dialogue familiar from the first film including a running joke at Captain America’s expense and their fooling around at the party with Thor’s hammer comes back later with a nice pay-off. Even the killer robot Ultron has a sick sense of humour it’s inherited from Stark.

The film actually takes time to show that innocent people get hurt during their battles and that there are legal consequences and worse. This might be a bit of dig at previous superhero films where no-one thinks about those caught up in these battles. I think it’s really a fortunate coincidence or very good timing that this comes after the release of the Netflix TV series Daredevil about a hero living in such a community. This also ties in to the new situation caused by absence of SHIELD to give the team any sort of authority to act. The climactic action scene is just as much a rescue mission as is it a battle against Ultron which means Hawkeye and Black Widow are just as important as Thor and Iron Man.

As a fan I will not be very neutral about this film and if you don’t like comic book films this will not convert you. It does really rely on knowledge of the other films to fully grasp what is going on in this one and some scenes may only really make sense when we see future films, especially one with Thor. None of this is really a problem for me since I’m used to episodic storytelling from TV or comics and accept that this is what Marvel are doing.  This is a really good solid action adventure film and I know it does not quite have the excitement of the first Avengers film but that was inevitable. Personally I was quite buzzed by the post climax scenes but that is heavy spoiler territory so I’m saying nothing else about it here.

Rating  8.5/10

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Posted by on April 26, 2015 in Film


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X Men: Days of Future Past

At the Movies

858070_353242348128690_933500536_oStrap in for the long haul as I have a complete geek-out here. I’ve a been an X Men comic book fan for a long time and though I did enjoy all the previous films I was concerned when they fumbled their attempt at the Phoenix Saga in X Men Last Stand then stumbled again with Wolverine Origins. I was so happy when they went the prequel route in First Class and I really enjoyed seeing the younger take on Xavier and Eric. They followed this with a respectable solo film for Wolverine. And now they have really got their franchise back on track by using the time travel device to retcon away some of their less popular choices from earlier films with a strong character driven story.

Days of Future Past is based on the story in the comics and the script does a good job adapting the story without slavishly following it. The future is a nightmare with mutants hunted down and captured or killed by mutant hunting robots called sentinels that can adapt to any attack from those with mutant powers. The whole world is a war zone and mutants are nearly extinct. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) gather with a small group of surviving X Men to try one last desperate attempt to not only save themselves but to prevent the whole nightmare from happening: they want to change the past.

Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) seems to have developed a secondary mutation where she can send a person’s consciousness back in time to an earlier version of themselves and we see her do this with Bishop (Omar Sy), allowing them to avoid a sentinel attack that nearly wiped them out. Thanks to this ‘reset button’ power the film doesn’t hold its punches when shows just how brutal these sentinel attacks are. We also get to see some nice bits of the X Men working together in battle such as Blink (Bingbing Fan) combining her portals with the attacks of the other X Men. These include Sunspot (Adan Canto) [who seems to have acquired Sunfire’s atomic fire powers], Colossus (Daniel Cudmore), Warpath (Booboo Stewart) , Storm (Halle Berry) and it’s great to see Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) in full ice form using his ice slides.

Kitty’s power is only used for sending someone a couple weeks back at most as any more causes damage to the mind/brain. Xavier wants to go back to the 1970s to prevent the assassination of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage) the scientist who developed the prototype sentinels and was trying to sell them to the US government. When he was killed by Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) this convinced the government of the danger posed by mutants and also gave them access to Mystique’s DNA which Trask’s company used to develop the lethal future sentinels.

Xavier is not physically capable of surviving the strain of the time displacement so they need to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) which has the advantage of making sense in the story and perfect sense for such prominent role to be played by the star of the series. I know that in the comic it was Kitty who went back and in the cartoon series it was Bishop but neither character has much chance of even existing that far back and Wolverine has been the audience entry point to this film series. Fortunately Wolverine is more than adequately balanced out by the other characters in this film.

Back in 1973 Wolverine wakes up in bed with some anonymous woman and he stops to give the audience a lingering look at his naked butt before a gang of thugs break down the door and try to kill him. After dealing with them he goes to find Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) in his family mansion. Xavier is living with Beast (Nicholas Hoult) who looks a bit more human than last time we saw him in First Class. This is because of a magic serum plotholefillium Beast developed which supresses mutations but stops working if Beast gets upset [a bit like the Hulk only blue and furry]. Charles has also been taking the serum so he no longer has his telepathy but for some reason the serum allows him to walk despite the bullet in his spine. Charles Xavier has been broken by events since the last film. Two of his students were conscripted into the army when the Vietnam war started and Mystique left with Magneto so he had no-one apart from Beast. He has lost his optimism and his vision of humans and mutants living together in peace.

Next Wolverine has to get Magneto (Michael Fassbender) who is being held in a non-metallic prison under the Pentagon. Fortunately Wolverine knows someone who can help them, a teenage boy called Peter Maximoff (Evan Peters) otherwise known as Quicksilver. This is one of those strange characters that live in a sort of twilight zone that allows Fox and Disney/Marvel to use them. He was an Avenger in the comics but he’s a mutant and has been involved in X Men related titles such as X Factor. He is a great character, funny and mischievous and the scene of him using his power to rescue them from armed guards is the highlight of the film as we see him racing round the room in bullet time gently nudging things, shifting things into place and when we return to normal time the guards have knocked each other out and all their bullets have missed. [A minor spoiler from the comics is that Peter is Magneto’s son but they only hinted that in the film.]

Now Magneto and Xavier have to get over their disagreements to stop Mystique but they don’t know where she is and since Xavier is powerless he can’t find her but they do know she is going to be in Paris to kill Bolivar Trask as he pimps his sentinel project to various military leaders. Mystique went with Magneto at the end of the First Class film but she has since left him too and now is working on her own for the cause of mutants in very practical ways, such as rescuing a group of mutant soldiers in Vietnam from getting sent to a secret lab as a reward for serving their country. These mutants include Havok (Lucas Till), Toad (Evan Jonigkeit), Ink (Gregg Lowe) and some other guy with spines. Mystique is not targeting Trask because of the sentinels but because of what he did to mutants during his research [in case you are wondering what happened to all the other mutants from First class.]

The mission to change history is going as planned but Magneto decides to try to take things further, leading to a very public mutant battle being filmed by several cameras and of course the mutant threat is the top news story, guaranteeing Trask gets funding for his sentinels. Now they have made everything worse so Xavier has to come off his magic juice so he can use Cerebro to find Mystique and this is where he uses Wolverine to contact his future self and find the reason to go on with the fight. Of course this means Xavier has to give up walking and re-establish his control of his mental powers.

Xavier’s character arc is basically about Xavier becoming the man he is in the other films, a teacher, a leader and a peacemaker. Magneto is already willing to play the role of the villain that the human authorities claim him to be. He may be willing to work with Xavier to prevent becoming victim of another holocaust but that doesn’t mean he will give up plans to launch his own holocaust. Mystique has grown away from both men as she fights for mutants directly on her own and the fate of the world depends on what choices she makes.

Bolivar Trask is an interesting villain with motives that seem to mirror Magneto’s. He is not motivated by hatred of mutants but out of loyalty to humans. He has read Xavier’s academic work and uses quotes from it in his presentation to the military. He does get side-lined by a plot that is more concerned with the interactions of the main characters so doesn’t really get to fully play a villain role but now that they have him set up I hope they make better use of him in later films.

As you can probably tell I really got into this film. The writers have done an amazing job linking up the past with future in a way that doesn’t hurt the head. Even though there are many characters in the film it focuses on Magneto, Xavier, and Mystique with Wolverine and Beast playing supporting roles. The scenes of the future were very brutal so there was always a good sense of how high the stakes were though there isn’t too much time to see any character stuff in the future. The cast are all really great especially James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence but a special word goes out to Evan Peters who took a lot of abuse before the film’s release and really delivered a version of Quicksilver that raises the bar for Marvel’s Avengers Age of Ultron film. I highly recommend this film especially to anyone who enjoyed the first X Men films and I’m really looking forward to Apocalypse in two years time

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on June 6, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Thor – The Dark World


1185066_386159968178782_1116796319_nOdin (Anthony Hopkins) gives us a potted history of Malekith (Christopher Eccleston) and the Dark Elves in a voiceover with the battle on the screen. Basically they existed before light came into the universe and Malkieth wants to return the universe to darkness and they have created weapon called the ether to bring it about during the conjunction of the nine realms. Odin’s father Bor destroyed the dark elf army and forced Malekith to withdraw into hiding. Bor could not destroy the ether so he hid it on the empty world of the dark elves.

Forward to the present and on Asgard they are dealing with the consequences of Loki’s (Tom Hiddleston) actions. First for what he tried to pull on Earth Odin puts Loki into a cell where only Frigga (Rene Russo) his adopted mother visits him. Next Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Sif (Jaimie Alexander) and the Warriors Three battle long and hard to restore peace to the nine realms now that Bifrost the Rainbow Bridge has been rebuilt.

On Earth Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is hard at work dating Chris O’Dowd but the date gets interrupted by Darcy (Kat Dennings). She has actually been working and this is first time she took a break. Now Darcy is here with one Jane’s instrument that keeps beeping, indicating an anomaly just like the ones she detected before that turned out to be Bifrost.

Darcy has got herself an intern called Ian (Jonathan Howard) who has found something very strange. It’s out in some abandoned industrial zone where gravity is behaving very strangely and there seems to be wormholes around the place. They have all sorts of fun playing with the wormholes so it’s obvious something bad is going to happen. Jane falls through another wormhole and finds herself on an empty dead planet. It turns out that this is the world of the Dark elves and Jane seethe ether which enter her body.

Thor had been talking to Heimdall (Idris Elba) when Jane went into the wormhole. Heimdall saw Jane vanish from his sight so Thor heads to Earth to look for her. Jane comes back to Earth through another wormhole and is shocked to see the police there but she’s been gone for five hours so Darcy had no choice. Thor arrives just then and Jane is happy to see him but pissed off that he didn’t come to see her last time he was on Earth. When the ether energy inside Jane strikes out suddenly Thor realises that this dangerous and so he grabs Jane and whisks her off to Asgard.

Odin is not at all happy about Thor bringing Jane to Asgard and though he sounds like an arrogant old bigot he may be thinking of the problems of relationships between long-lived Asgardians and humans but he still doesn’t have to be such an old prick about it. He changes his mind when he discovers the ether inside Jane which the Asgardian doctors say is killing her.

When Jane got filled with ether Malekith and his dark elves were awakened. He launches an attack on Asgard to get to Jane and retrieve the ether. The Asgardians defend themselves and drive off the elves but at the cost of many Asgardian lives. This sends Odin into a rage and he wants vengeance so knowing that Malekith will return for Jane he imprisons her.

This time it is Thor who has the cooler head and comes up with a plan to take the battle elsewhere and lessen the potential for death. For that he needs the help of Heimdall, Sif and the Warriors Three and he also needs Loki’s specials skills. Thor frees Jane and they head off to take down Malkeith.

I think this was a better film than the first which was only really an introduction to Thor and the world of Asgard. This film we get a lot more of the characters doing things and seeing how they relate to each other. Odin is not all the harsh but wise king, he makes mistakes and is conflicted between what he wants to do as a father and what he feels bound to do as a king and I‘m really glad they have Anthony Hopkins in the role. We get to see a bit more of Jane Foster and Eric Selvig and Darcy does the comedy relief. We see the complex relationship between Loki and Thor a bit more in this film when they are reluctantly forced to work together yet there’s a sense that both want to. The only weakness in this film is the one note villains. They want to destroy the universe because that’s what they want to do. Overall I had a good time with this film but I doubt it is going to convince anyone who didn’t like the first film.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Iron Man 3

Cinema Review

Iron_Man_3_theatrical_posterMarvel have launched what they are calling phase 2 with Iron Man 3 and while it can’t match the sheer exuberance of The Avengers it still maintains all the elements that made Iron Man such a hit such as the high octane comic book action you could want and Robert Downey Jr. giving the role a touch of swagger and wit. It is certainly a better story than Iron Man 2 and I think it might be better than the first one though I’ll wait until I have seen it again to decide.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is still haunted by the memories of his brush with death at the end of The Avengers film and sine he can’t sleep he has thrown himself into developing Iron Man suits. We get a flashback to years before Tony became Iron Man in Switzerland. Being Tony he is fascinated by an attractive female scientist Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) but gives a geeky male scientist Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) the brush-off. This all comes back to bite him on the ass in the present which is only to be expected since a large number of the evil villains superheroes have to battle are disgruntled scientists with a chip on their shoulder from having their genius ignored by the hero. The organisation that Killian wants help in founding is called Advanced Idea Mechanics or A.I.M. This organisation will be familiar to people who read Marvel comics as antagonists of The Avengers.

A new terrorist called The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has appeared on the world scene attacking American targets with some new type of bomb that leaves absolutely no trace and so of course Colonel James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) is put on the job in his War Machine armour but the government have decided to give the armour a tacky paint job and renamed him Iron Patriot. This does lead to lots of piss-taking by Tony.

Tony himself gets right on the Mandarin’s case when Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau) gets seriously injured in an explosion outside the Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. After the Mandarin does one of his videos taking credit for the blast Tony holds a press conference outside the hospital where Happy is lying unconscious. Tony tells the Mandarin that he’s coming for him and dares the Mandarin to attack him, even giving out his home address.

Tony is at home with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and he gets a visit from Maya Hansen who he barely remembers. She wants to warn him about Aldrich Killian but before she has a chance to say anything three helicopters full of the Mandarin’s henchmen start blowing up the place. This leads to a big action scene where Tony has to get Pepper and Maya to safety while the helicopters are destroying his house. Tony takes out two copters but ends up knocked into the sea and covered in rubble by the third which flies off.

When Tony escapes the rubble and flies up into the air but the damage to his suit results in it losing power and crashing in the middle of the countryside, hundreds of miles away. The world thinks Tony is dead so he lets Pepper and Rhodey know he’s still alive. He has to get his suit fixed and recharged and he gets help from a young boy called Harley (Ty Simpkins) with access to a garage and a neglectful mother. With Rhodey’s help he investigates the explosion and finds himself up against the Mandarin’s enhanced super-soldiers without his suit or his computer. This part of the film has Tony realises he’s not just a man in a can but without his suit he is still a technical genius.

I think that the villains in this film are the weakest part of it and they have no convincing motivation for what they are doing. Guy Pearce plays the sleazy sociopathic Killian very well and Ben Kingsley was a revelation in the role of the Mandarin but the main weapon on their side was secrecy and once their secrets were out they were no real threat to Tony and Rhodey. This means the climax had to rely on the predictable damsel in distress trope and of course that means Killian kidnapping Pepper, forcing a confrontation with Tony. Despite being such a hoary old cliché they managed to make it pretty exciting with whole of lot of robots and explosions.

I know people were wondering if Marvel could keep up the standard set by The Avengers and I think that with this film they haven’t tried to do that. I am glad they are keeping the solo films separate while not ignoring events happening in the others. The story is fairly straightforward and though Tony does have tough time it never sees too tough for him to handle without needing to call in help. There is a very controversial character revelation that will be very divisive but it didn’t give me any problem, but then I’m not really a big fan of Iron Man comics. I can totally understand if people feel differently about it. I know it’s a big brash expensive block buster with lots of special effects but it’s also a lot of fun and a lot of the time that is what I want from a film.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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Best and Worst Films of 2012

2012 Top Ten

This has been a very mixed year for films and while I enjoyed many of the films released this year it has been a stronger year for science fiction and fantasy films than for horror films. These lists are only based on films I have seen and I know that some of the ones I haven’t seen yet would have had a good chance of getting on my list if I’d seen them including Dredd, Looper and The Hobbit, so this is not a comprehensive list. I chose these films for how much I enjoyed watching them.

Honourable mention to Absentia
A woman whose about to have her missing husband declared legally dead finds that he may not have gone far. This low budget independent horror managed to create an effective sense of gloom in dread without a big CGI budget. It creates a chilling atmosphere with the effective use of sounds and shadows and the story is pretty original

10. Juan of the Dead
Independent films seem to have a hard time getting cinema distribution but this appeared fairly quickly on DVD.This film is genuinely funny with a streak of sharp social commentary as we see Juan and his friends making the best of a zombie plague in Cuba and even finding ways to turn a profit

9. The Dead
This film also only got a limited cinema release but it is a great back to basics zombie survival horror. I like my zombies to be the slow silent shambling kind and that is what this film delivers. It had a simple story and strong characters and it is a must see for zombie fans.

8. Prometheus
When a couple of researchers discover a starmap hidden in the art of different ancient cultures a wealthy businessman sends a ship to the star system to investigate hoping to discover something about the origins of mankind  but what they find is not answers but more questions. Ridley Scott’s return to the universe he created in Alien isn’t as gritty and intimate as that film but it still a good solid science fiction film, even if there was a lot of gratuitous sequel baiting

7. The Innkeepers
I know that this film was doing the film festivals in 2011 but we didn’t see it in UK until 2012 and it got the familiar “blink and you’ll miss it” release in the cinemas. It is a nice tight supernatural thriller with great performances from the Sara Paxton and Pat Healy as two amateur ghost hunters investigating the haunting of the inn where they work.

6. The Woman in Black
It is great to see the Hammer studio back in the horror film production business and this is their biggest recent success. That may have been due to lead being played by Daniel Radcliffe in his first film role since the end of the Harry Potter series. This is a vengeful ghost story that really ramps up the atmosphere of gloom before scaring the crap out you. Hammer were always at their best in period costumes

5. Iron Sky
Nazis hiding on the dark side of the moon launch an invasion of the United States. This ambitious crowd funded film hardly ever shows its limited budget and it’s a film I have watched over and over. Like all the best comedy it is played totally straight. Julie Dietz is great as the sympathetic Nazi teacher who seems to have no idea what the Nazi are really like. Stephanie Paul is a creepily Palin-like US president and Otto Gotz really throws himself into the role as the big magnificent Nazi bastard.

4. Sinister
A true crime writer moves his family into a murder house but as he investigates the crimes he discovers something  ancient is behind the murders and several more he finds out about. This is definitely the creepiest, scariest film I’ve seen this year and it makes great use of old film footage.

3. The Dark Knight Rises
The conclusion  of Christopher Nolan‘s batman trilogy manages to complete his story of Batman and it really puts Bruce Wayne through a much tougher set of obstacles to overcome the threat posed by Bane who wants to complete Ras al Ghul’s mission of destroying Gotham City for the League of Shadows.

2. The Cabin in the Woods
When co-writer Joss Whedon was quoted as calling this film a loving hate-letter to the horror genre you could probably guess this film was going to be divisive. Even the cliché of the five young friends travelling to the titular cabin the woods is all part a huge in-joke and the whole film is a metaphor of the horror industry. It has great characters, a smart, original story and an ending sure to make horror fans just squee with delight.

1. The Avengers
I’ve a been long time fan of Marvel and so this film was made for me and designed in almost every way to appeal to what I wanted to see in a comic book film. It was great to the see the different characters butting heads and the big action set pieces really brought the comicbook battles to the big screen. It was great to see that the character al got their chance to shine through and the portrayal of the Hulk was incredible. Now Marvel’s stage one has been so successful they are in position to expand their movie universe with further titles and characters.

Special mention to some of the films that I didn’t see until they were released on DVD/Bluray  in 2012 and would have gotten into 2011’s top ten list if I had seen them

This found footage film gives a pretty nice portrayal of what could happen to a group of normal boys who gain super-powers.  The special effects are pretty well done but it the performances of the young actors who give this film its strength

This family adventure film from Martin Scorsese would have been a real treat to watch at the cinema in 3D and I loved the way it paid respect to the pioneers of cinema without it even seeming to be about cinema at all.

The Adventures of Tintin
More family adventures this time from Steven Speilberg with a motion-capture animation of the classic Belgian comic book character Tintin that manages to stay pretty faithful to adventure of the nosy young reporter.

We Need to talk About Kevin
This harrowing drama about mother of a boy of commits an atrocity and now she has to live alone in the aftermath. Tilda Swinton is just fantastic in this part as a woman examining her memories of the boy she never loved. This is not a feel-good film but it is definitely a must-see.

Worst Films of 2012

Because I’m more likely to take a chance on a film on DVD than pay to see a stinker at the cinema these films were all on DVD or in one case Bluray. Since low-budget films can be good enough to appear in my top ten list having a low budget can hardly be used as an excuse for these dull annoying films.

10. Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies
Asylum cash in that can only really be enjoyed in the “so bad its good” sense but I don’t that films that start off intending to be cheesy knock-offs should get that pass since it tends to justify laziness and stupid fort he sake of stupid. It is one of the better Asylum efforts, as if that is saying anything.

9.  Wreckage
I barely even remember this film which is a pretty good hint that this film belongs on this list. A group of young people find themselves being victimised by a serial killer in a salvage yard. The film is not very original and is very inconsistent in tone.

8. Stonehenge Apocalypse
The Syfy channel has gotten a reputation for producing dumb films and this a perfect example.  Not only are ancient astronauts real but Stonehenge and the pyramids were created as a terraforming mechanism and a mad scientist has activated so its up to another mad scientist to find the lost pyramid of Maine and shut it down to save the world. 

7. Kentucky Fried Zombies
This pointless film has a serial killer killer in a diner caught up in a zombie outbreak. This film just failed to connect to with me and I didn’t really laugh at any of its attempts at dark humour

6. Tape 407
A passenger plane crashes in side a gorvernment secure zone and survivors find themseklves facing some something lethjl in the darkness. I don’t hate found footage films but like any technique it can be well done or badly done and this one is mostl just running in the dark and screaming while the shaky-cam bounces all over the place

5. Sand Sharks
An island holiday resort is plagued by sharks that swim the sand and the Sheriff finds his attempts to alert people thwarted by the interests of the mayor and his son who wants to hold a hippy music festival and make money. This film is another low-budget Syfy production and it is dumb and very badly written relying on making the characters do stupid things to further the stupid plot. It also has very unconvincing cheap CGI effects that are almost signature of awful SyFy films.

4. The Dead Matter
This films was just muddled mess. A group of young people come into possession of a magical amulet being hunted by a vampire and and couple of vampires hunters. The amulet can control the dead and soon they are hanging out with a zombie. This film is dull and the story is just silly.

3. Stormhouse
Military mad science has managed to capture a ghost and they use it to torture terrorist subjects. The characters are just plot driven puppets and not like real people.What gets to me the most about the story is the enormity of the achievement of seems to by-pass the peabrains running the military complex or their political masters. They have least proven the existence of spirits but seem neither amazed or excited by this.

2. The Wicker Tree
I had quite high expectations of this film since it is directed by Robin Hardy the same director as the fantastic Wicker man but I should note that he’s not the scriptwriter of that film. The same broad theme of the clash of evangelical Christianity with paganism is much more crudely done with some very amateurish acting and lots of singing. It fails to build up to any powerful climax and it is a pale shadow of the original film and even makes the Nicholas Cage remake look good.

1. Bunnyman
A bunch of idiots driving get terrorised by killer in a bunny costume and then find themselves being hunted down by his crazy family. Stupid characters do stupid things and they get killed by a cliché family of psychopaths. It has long periods of just being annoying broken up with occasional scenes of baffling idiocy. It really tries to be bad and has succeeded.

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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I was getting excited about going to see this film, the last part of Christopher Nolan’s batman trilogy. Then I heard the news of the shooting and that people at a midnight screening in Aurora, Colorado had died and it tempered my excitement. I cannot imagine the horror of being in that cinema and there are no words that can take away the pain of the loss of lives.

With a more subdued mood I went along to cinema to a fairly empty Saturday morning screening. I’m not totally sure how I felt about the film but it certainly gripped my attention with a story that was not what I expected but it delivered a climax to the trilogy that had really epic feel. I think this film will grow on me like Batman Begins.

Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has retired Batman since the end of the Dark Knight and a new Gotham has been built on the foundation of the lie of District Attorney Harvey Dent’s death as a hero at the hands of Batman. This has inspired the city to take a tougher stance against the criminals and crime is at an all-time low. Bruce is no longer fit to be Batman anymore and he lives as a recluse in Wayne manor, withdrawn from any contact with the world and needing to use a cane to walk because of his injuries.

Bruce soon finds that he cannot hide away forever. When Catwoman Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) breaks into his safe he comes out of seclusion to investigate. Then a hotshot young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) appears at his door and he knows Bruce is Batman wants Bruce to bring Batman back because of a new villain in town called Bane (Tom Hardy). Bane is smart and powerful and has very big plans for Gotham

I really liked the way that film made it clear that playing Batman has had a physical and mental toll on Bruce Wayne and it takes a bit of prodding to get Bruce back into the costume again. Nolan actually sidelines Batman for a lengthy period in the middle of the film and the film gets carried by the supporting cast but in saying that it still delivers a good dose of Batman action too. The cast is fantastic especially Michael Caine as Bruce’s loyal butler Alfred and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake. Another major character who needs mentioned is Bruce’s love interest Miranda Tate played by Marion Cotillard. This film seems to have divided audiences and been attacked by fools on both the left and the right so it must be doing something right. If you have seen the other Batman films then this is a must see.

Rating 8.7/10


Posted by on July 22, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

When Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 3 was a box office hit but was slagged off by fans and critics it led to Sony choosing to reboot the series with a different director and a new Spider-man (with a hyphen). It hardly seems like any time has passed at all since Spiderman 3. Despite these thoughts I was intrigued enough by the casting and clips so I went to see it and I really enjoyed it. The cast is great, especially Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker and it has a good mix of character drama and action and I think it is an improvement on Raimi’s films.

In this film we see Peter Parker as a young boy living with his parents before they have go away somewhere and they leave him with his Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen) and Aunt May (Sally Field) Right away this give Peter and his Aunt and Uncle a deeper characterisation than in the previous film. Then it’s a transition to Peter as a high school student where it establishes that he is nerd picked on by the school bully Flash Thomson (Chris Zylka) and he has a crush on a girl in his class called Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone).

Peter finds his father’s leather briefcase in Uncle Ben’s basement where he finds a photograph of his father with another man. He learns that this man was his father’s partner Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) and he works at Oscorp. Peter wants to know more about his parent’s deaths and he sneaks into Oscorp tower pretending to be a candidate for an internship in Dr. Connor’s lab. Unfortunately Peter’s cover gets blown when the assistant showing the candidates around turns out to be Gwen Stacy. Peter sneaks away from the group and explores the secure area of the lab. He comes to strange room where a fibre is being created and there are many spiders (uh oh). He pulls a fibre and ends up covered spiders. He brushes them off and gets out back to Gwen who is a bit pissed at him. That’s when a spider that he missed bites him and injects him with its groovy magic venom.

We know what’s going to happen but this time the film takes it time in the gradual transformation of Peter into Spider-Man. He discovers his sticky hands but can’t control it which leads to a funny action scene on a subway car where Peter also discovers his increased strength and agility but it really takes him time and practice to get used to using these new abilities.

He decides to humiliate Flash Thomson in the gym in front of his jock pals and damages the basketball backboard Uncle Ben gets called into the school and he finds Uncle Ben very disappointed in his behaviour. Later Uncle Ben gets killed in a struggle with fleeing armed thief that Peter could have stopped earlier if he wasn’t being a bitter smartass. This really hits Peter hard.

This leads to Peter using his powers to hunt down criminals who look like his uncle’s attacker. He’s not fighting crime, he’s on a vendetta and I doubt he has even considered what he would do if he caught the guy. This is when the costume forms, not all at one but in stages, mask first. Then comes the webbing which is where this really differs from the Raimi series because these are created by Peter and not some unlikely extra superpower and it drives home how smart Peter is.

Once we get our Spider-man we need a villain for him to fight. Peter went to see Connors at his home and reveals that he is Richard Parker’s son. Connor’s research has hit wall but thanks to formula discovered by Richard Parker and given to him by Peter he has a breakthrough. Dr. Connors becomes desperate when an Oscorp executive shuts him down and seizes his research because he refuses to push ahead into human testing so Connors injects himself with the formula. He regenerates his missing arm but the formula goes much further and transforms him into the Lizard, a sociopathic humanoid reptilian creature with a mad plan to transform everyone into reptiles to make the world perfect.

This film has a nice balance of character drama and action and relationship that develops between Peter and Gwen is really believable. There is a great supporting cast and Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben and Denis Leary as Gwen’s father Captain Stacy in particular are really great. Stan Lee has a really amazing cameo right in the middle of an action sequence that I just loved. I also liked that the film showed Peter had to work to become Spider-Man. The only weakness is that Connors/the Lizard is a bit underdeveloped but this a long film and I suppose sacrifices had to made. This is really solid entertaining film and I recommend it.

Rating 8.5/10


Posted by on July 5, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Avengers Assemble

There has been a lot of preparation for this film with origin stories for four of the main characters or five if you include Loki’s introduction as the villain in Thor so now the film has finally been released it is a great relief that the preparation has really paid off in a film that the delivers the best translation of a comic book into a film so far.

In a continuing comic book series the job of setting up the characters and some of the plot has been done in previous issues or even in issues of separate solo series. This film is in that same position so it can get straight down to the plot from the start. Villainous Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots with the leader of the alien Chitauri race. He offers them a tesseract if they give him army to conquer Earth, the planet it is on. This tesseract is a source of almost limitless power and was left on Earth by Odin, king of the Asgardians and Loki’s adopted father. The tesseract was tracked down by Johan Schmidt, a Nazi scientist better known as the Red Skull who used it to power his own attempt to create weapons he would use to conquer the Earth for himself. His plans were thwarted by Captain America who crashed Red Skull’s plane into the Arctic where he was frozen in ice for 70 years. A search at the time failed to recover Captain America’s body but they did recover the tesseract.

The tesseract is currently in a SHIELD research facility, being worked on by physicist Dr Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) when it starts putting out bursts of energy and drawing the attention of SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) The tesseract has the power to open portals to other worlds and Loki uses this to teleport himself right into the lab. He uses his power staff to attack Nick Fury and the SHIELD agents guarding the lab. He also uses his staff to turn Selvig and several agents into his obedient slaves, including sharp shooting hi-tech archer Clint Barton or Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). With his new slaves he escapes with the tesseract.

Fury needs help to retrieve the tesseract from someone as powerful as Loki and to that end he first calls in his best field agent Natasha Romanov or Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and sends her to bring in the world’s foremost expert in gamma radiation Dr Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo)  and the Hulk to help them find a way to locate the tesseract by tracing the gamma radiation it gives off. He also calls in billionaire hi-tech manufacturer and Iron Man Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) to take down Loki when they find him. It doesn’t take long for Stark and Banner to locate the tesseract and it’s very easy to trace Loki when he attacks people at a wealthy dinner party in Germany. Iron Man and Captain America manage to capture him but not the tesseract so they are taking him back to the SHIELD heli-carrier to be interrogated. Suddenly they get attacked by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) Loki’s adopted brother who wants to take Loki back to Asgard. Iron Man and Thor battles for while but Captain America interrupts the fight and talks some sense into them. There really is fantastic interplay of the characters of this very mismatched team and there is a lot of big egos and butting heads before they pull together at the end to fight to save Earth from Loki’s mad schemes

This story could be lifted right from an issue of the Avengers comic and the film really is the closest I’ve seen to a film with the authentic feel of a comic book. The whole thing plays out just the stories in the comic books and the characters are very well written and directed by someone who understands how to translate the insane action sequences of a comic book like The Avengers onto film. There is a so much going in the climactic battle but I managed to follow everything easily.

Like a comic it spends very little time on back story, diving straight into the plot with the luxury of having most of their character development done on earlier episodes but this shows the characters learning to interact as a team. We learn a bit more about Hawkeye and Black Widow and we get to see how even though they are “only” highly trained humans they get to play a part in team of powerhouses like Iron Man, Hulk and Thor. In particular I’d say the surprise for me was really how right the Hulk and Banner are in this film and I’m glad that Mark Ruffalo has agreed to do more films featuring the Hulk. As Banner he is very carefully calm and quiet with a wry humour. As the Hulk we get to see him on a raging rampage but also later as the calmer powerhouse easily ripping through the enemy ranks. He also has more brutal sense of humour with some excellent scenes that really stand out and I’m not surprised the general reaction after seeing the film is a desire for more Hulk.

This really is a must see film for fans of superhero comic books as well as anyone who enjoys big science fiction adventure films. The dialogue is full of humour but nothing goes too over the top.

Rating 9/10


Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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