Warcraft Review

Warcraft Review

Video game film adaptations for the most part have been terrible let’s be honest from the dire Resident Evil series to the latest incarnation of Hitman, the films are boring, cliche and have very little in common to there source material. So I am pleased to announce that we FINALLY have an adaptation from game to screen that WORKS, its not definitive by any means but it is certainly a step in the right direction.

The films plot is fairly complicated and I don’t want to delve into spoilers for people who haven’t seen it so in a nutshell, the film is about a race of Orcs whose home world is dying and need to conquer a new world in order to survive and they have picked the realm of Azeroth to conquer which is inhabited by humans and fantasy battles ensue.

First off this film is incredibly stunning to look at. As soon as the film opens and we see main Orc Durotan (Toby Kebbell, a real gem of an actor) interacting with his wife I literally turned to my girlfriend and said “these things look real” ever since the Planet of The Apes franchise reboot I constantly get blown away by how good motion capture is becoming and this film feels like a new age in the technology. All the orcs are believable, truly rounded characters and there brute strength and force in combat can certainly be felt when the action kicks in. I loved the opening to this film because it does something rarely seen in fantasy genre film’s or summer blockbusters for that matter and it opens on a genuine human moment as the two orcs discuss the upcoming trip to another realm whilst fearing for the safety of there own child, I mean whats more human than that really?

The main problem I had however with the first 30-45 minutes of this film was the sheer heft of information that is piled on by the clunky screenwriting and editing. I didn’t have an issue with this for the most part but when there is so many different names, places and races you do occasionally look at the screen and it is a bit of a mess but slowly but surely I found my feet and felt totally immersed in the world. Batman V Superman had a similar problem with information overload as they tried to copy what Marvel had done for years over several films into 2 and a half hours. Here the main issue is to get the entire lore of Orcs and Humans in the world of Warcraft into 2 hours feels extremely tight and just by watching how certain scenes play out and the outcomes of certain character arcs it comes as no surprise that the films director Duncan Jones has come out publicly and said 40 minutes has been chopped off the film.

The casting choices of the film have been criticized by quite alot of critics with some saying that the wizard character played by Ben Foster is too young and vice versa whereas I actually feel they should be applauded for going against type and picking actors who wouldn’t usually be picked to play these roles and I always an advocate of giving fresh faces a chance. The lead human actor Travis Fimmel who plays Anduin, famous for his role on TV’s Viking’s series I thought gave an admirable performance but I couldn’t help but shake the feeling they were trying to capture Aragorn from Lord of the Rings and the charisma was just not on screen. The chemistry between some of the actors was virtually non existent and this no more evident than the forced love story angle with Anduin and a half orc-half human played by Paula Patton and I didn’t buy there relationship for a single second.

The biggest surprise about this film however was the amount of character deaths that happen to what are seemingly key characters and I think this maybe a new direction Hollywood should maybe consider doing more often as I genuinely can’t remember the last time I was shocked about character deaths like I was in this film, especially from a summer blockbuster. Duncan Jones has a clear love for the Warcraft franchise and he has created an amazing world here however we don’t get to spend enough time in it. Often these types of films are over bloated and I actually feel this film would have benefited from being longer so we could appreciate the amazing efforts the production team must have gone through to realize this computer game world onto the big screen.

Overall I had a truly solid time with this film. I loved the fight/action sequences I thought they were extremely well handled by the supremely talented Duncan Jones and I just pray that audiences go to see this film as the promise this film has for potentially great sequels and a franchise is just too good of an opportunity to ignore.

7/10

 

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Netflix Original – Team Foxcatcher – Review

Netflix Original – Team Foxcatcher – Review

Two years ago a film called Foxcatcher was released. It was based on a true story involving an overly eccentric rich man named John DuPont and the team of wrestlers he created on his estate. It largely focussed on his relationship with wrestler Mark Shultz and the shooting of Mark’s brother Dave Shultz. Rarely have I left a film angrier. Sam was the same, we truly felt robbed of our money and over two hours of our lives. Despite the mass of Oscar nominations it received, the film was awful. The story however intrigued me. So when Team Foxcatcher, a documentary made for Netflix, was released this year I waited for the right mood and time to watch it. This is the true story of how John DuPont went from eccentric millionaire to murderer.

The documentary is done in a fairly common fashion. It is made up of amateur footage and interviews, provided by the people surrounding the events. This may not be the most inventive way to shoot a documentary, but it is a proven method of telling a story in a concise and effective manner. We are told about Dave Shultz’s career and how well respected he was in the wrestling community. Despite his talent Team USA struggled against countries like Russia.This is mainly due to wrestlers not having the funding to wrestle as they get older. Enter John DuPont who opens Foxcatcher Farms, a community of wrestlers who live and train together on the same facility.

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After that it focuses on the time frame between 1989 (after Mark left the farm) up to the shooting of Dave and the aftermath in 1996. In this time we see how close the entire community was. We learn about John DuPont’s relationship with the local police as well as his desire to be part of the comradery between the wrestlers. The film does a fantastic job of building up an uneasiness around John, making you wary of his actions despite them appearing generous. It touches on his life prior to this time, however I would have liked a bit more context in to what made him like he is. I understand the desire to keep it focussed to the time of the event, but I think it would have been fascinating to understand the man more.

The storytelling was great in this film, covering several different opinions and angles, not appearing to have an agenda anyway. That’s pretty amazing for a film about a murderer as it’s pretty easy to be biased against a murderer. The director however knows that the audience will think like that anyway so instead just delivers us with facts. What is more fascinating however are the interviews with people who knew Dave and John. The admiration and love they had for Dave as well as the respect and gratefulness they had for John create an interesting dynamic. The documentary is always at its best points when talking to Dave’s wife and kids. Although we can’t hear what the director is asking, it’s clear he has put them at ease enough to properly explore their emotions surrounding the shooting.

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One moment in particular with Dave’s son will make you extremely angry, closely followed by a moment with his daughter that will leave a lump in your throat. This documentary is a fascinating story, but it is also an amazing example of human nature. From the forgiving nature  of his daughter, to the betrayal of his closest friend as well as the paranoid millionaire who finally loses it. We witness people on a level that only a great tragedy can show us. When a man who has touched so many peoples lives in such a positive way is taken from you, how do you react? What is the correct way to react? And do we have any right to judge? These are some questions I was left asking myself afterwards.

With John however it’s clear cut and dry. He was a deprived, insecure and paranoid man who finally snapped. The aftermath in which he hides in his manor house, unaware of the gravity of what he has done shows that sometimes that kind of money, without the right kind of guidance can be a curse.  I knew I was going to watch a film about an interesting story, I didn’t expect such an interesting insight in to the human condition. That surprise alone gave the story more depth and elevated this documentary from just good to actually being great. Once again Netflix delivers. It has some fantastic dramas and comedies, but between Making a Murderer and this, Netflix has shown that they can churn out quality of any kind.

7.5/10

Jungle Book – Review

Jungle Book – Review

Live actions remakes are the ticket at the moment. After the success of Maleficent they have really taken off. Emma Watson is playing Belle in the upcoming Beauty and Beast remake, the fella from True Blood is Tarzan and Emma Stone is playing Cruella. In fact this wont be the only Jungle Book we’ll see. My friend Pie who only likes one film, The Lion King, is petrified of them announcing a remake of that. As I’ve said before however I give remakes a chance. The people involved in the production are doing it as a labour of love even if the studio does it for easy cash. I however never really got in to the Jungle Book as a kid and thus wasn’t too excited about this film.

Of course we all know the story. Mowgli is a child living in the jungle, joined by his friends Bagheera and Baloo who are a panther and a bear respectively. As Bagheera tries to convince him to leave the jungle, due to a threat  on his life from the tiger Shere Khan, Mowgli gets up to all kinds of trouble, meeting many interesting animals and characters along the way. With an all star cast of Christopher Walken, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Scarlett Johansson and Bill “Fuckin'” Murray taking a foray in to voice acting, the film follows the same basic plot of the original Jungle Book with one or two differences, most notably the end.

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This film is beautiful. An odd way to describe a film I know, but the visuals are spectacular. Looking at the way the animals look and move it’s clear that the cruel practice of having real animals in films should become a thing of the past. The scenery is stunning as well it really plummets you in to Mowgli’s world. Jon Favreau is someone I’ve always considered a lucky man, because he’s made a ton of money on films that need very little direction. I can’t imagine he had to tell Robert Downey Jr. how to be Iron Man since he actually is Iron Man. However taking on the challenge of a world that is 90% visual effects and getting a stunning performance from the young Neel Sethi is no small feat so respect where it is due.

The voice acting is all done very well, however personally the huge names using their own voices rather took me out of the film. For a kid this won’t be an issue as I’m sure they don’t know who Stringer Bell is, but for me I couldn’t help but see the actor rather than the animal. With the exception however of Scarlett Johansson who previously captivated audiences with just her voice in Her.If I was a child I would be petrified when she is voicing the snake Kaa. One of the best bits of casting I’ve seen in a long time. Christopher Walken on the other hand gave us what sounded like a spoken word version of I Wanna Be Like You and for the rest of the time didn’t seem to be trying. I hate to criticise Walken, the guy is a legend, but he appeared to put very little effort in.

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The message seemed to change from the original Jungle Book. The original seemed to be a story of how we should stick with our own kind and Mowgli’s differences are a negative thing. Kipling was obviously notoriously racist against the people in India, despite living there. Rightly so this film took that message and flipped it. Mowgli being different ended up saving his life, the life of a baby elephant and gaining him mass acceptance in the Jungle. Rather than being enticed by a little girls back to the man village he stays with the only family he has ever known. Instead of acting like them however he acts more like himself which is a great message to be sending to children.

The film contains a lot of heart, a lot of laughs and some seriously cute wolf cubs that even I couldn’t help releasing a little “aww” over. Disney have time and time again proved they are here to stay as one of the best creators of content on the planet. My biggest regret is not being able to watch this film as a child myself. There was a kind behind me in the cinema who was rather audible in their reactions and they seemed genuinely amazed, terrified and moved. I think as I was sat there I witnessed the birth of a brand new film fanatic and that alone means this film for me is one of the biggest shocks of the year thus far. Rather than a weak remake with no inspiration it is a vast improvement  on a classic and that is something that doesn’t happen often. Maybe Pie should be preying for a Lion King reboot after all.

9/10

X-Men: Apocalypse Review

X-Men: Apocalypse Review

More superheroes blessed our screen last week, in that odd combination of a Marvel film that isn’t made by Marvel. With Fox continuing to retain the rights to X-Men it could be some time, if ever, that we see Wolverine join The Avengers or Deadpool riff with Spider-Man. The X-Men films are known for being very hit or miss thus far, with First Class being a fantastic example of how to reboot a series to X-Men Origins: Wolverine which was an awful example of how to make a film in general. Personally I grew up on X-Men and Spider-Man, so even the weaker films containing these characters I enjoy despite knowing all of the shortcomings. For example I didn’t mind Amazing Spider-Man 2. Still I was thrilled when Marvel got the rights back to Parker and loved the introduction of Wanda Maximoff in to the MCU, because I know the quality of movies over at Disney is higher.

X-Men: Apocalypse instantly tells you about the main antagonist of this film. En Sabah Nur, aka Apocalypse is considered the first ever mutant, to the point were people believed he must be god. Having discovered the route to immortality, he is awoken from what can only be described as a centuries long coma to witness a world in which humans rule and mutants run scared. With his four horseman; Psylocke, Storm, Archangel and of course Magneto he plans to destroy the world and rebuild it. Interestingly he doesn’t want mutant rule and humans to perish, his goal is for the weak to die and the strong to be by his side.

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After the relative puzzle that Days Of Future Past was plot wise this is much more straight forward. Big bad appears, the righteous good must prevail or the world is over. After films like Ant-Man, Civil War and Deadpool this has gone a completely different way. This is a genuine world ending event that our heroes are trying to stop. A lot of critics have a problem with this, but I don’t. Like I said we’ve had lots of smaller cost films lately. We are talking about high powered mutants here with all sorts of ridiculous abilities. It makes sense that now and again one of these powerful fuckers will want to destroy the earth. However a bit of originality may have been good, it felt very paint by numbers in every sense.

Oscar Isaac is one of the best actors in Hollywood purely due to his range and I very much enjoyed him playing someone with a massive god complex. He is epic and angry, but still you understand his charm. He helps you believe that these four people would get on board with him, including Magneto who you’d never consider a follower usually. However I think once again Fassbender stole the show. I wont give away too many details, but his story gets much more depressing in this instalment (Yep, more anguish on top of his Nazi based past) and he does an amazing job of portraying the inner conflict within him. I left on his side more than anyone else. Honourable mention goes to Tye Sheridan as Cyclops. I hated Scott Summers in the first three. Whiny and self serving which wasn’t the Cyclops I grew up with. This much funnier, charming and much more layered character is a lot better.

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Action scenes are fairly uninspired and unoriginal. Quicksilver’s running through the mansion scene that we was waiting for was very entertaining. However it was just the same as his one in the kitchen previously, but on a larger scale. The final battle was just your usual final battle, you know the whole heroes do well, then it looks bleak, then it all comes together, because good always beats evil. Then there was a cheesy Age of Ultronesque ending with the revealing of The X-Men line up which I enjoyed as a fan, but really added nothing to the film. The Wolverine cameo revealed in the trailer is awesome though. First time we’ve really seen him fully unleash and it makes perfect sense with the characters story as well. Easily my favourite part of the film that entire sequence.

Overall this film was unoriginal and uninspired, definitely lacking behind the quality of Civil War. However it is fun to watch, has some funny moments and some touching moments and introduces some characters that I think will leave the franchise in good hands. It’s definitely paint by numbers, but the picture at the end is worth looking at and executed very well. You’ve seen it all done before, but maybe not this well.

 

7/10

Screen Unseen – Everybody Wants Some Review

Screen Unseen – Everybody Wants Some Review

 

I’m sure you have all met Film Studies students before. As a general rule we are a pretentious bunch of people. This is the case with most people doing a BA course, but there is a special kind of pompousness around Film Students. An average movie goer watches 2001: A Space Odyssey or Citizen Kane and finds it quite boring. We will tell you how amazing the visuals are and how perfect the cinematography is. I would say that sometimes we even claim to enjoy films, because they fit a certain mould and we respect their craft. There is a massive difference in those two things however, enjoyment and respect don’t go hand in hand.

I like to believe that I break the mould a bit however. I love trashy badly made movies. I’d argue that someone can’t be a massive film snob and love Kevin Smith like I do. However I do like to indulge in to the pretension that my 27 grand piece of paper has afforded me. This is where Richard Linklater comes in. Not only is his plotless style of film making ooze of pretentiousness. His characters themselves are generally pseudo-intellectual losers who think that, because they’ve heard The Beatles once they are geniuses. Easy enough then for a Film graduate to relate to. Heavy on the dialogue, top quality soundtracks and a moment in time. That’s how you know it’s a Linklater.

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Everybody Wants Some is the cousin of Dazed and Confused. It follows young baseball player Jacob, his new college team mates and their exploits on the three days leading up to class. Sixteen young, attractive and talented men living in two houses next door to each other. This film addresses themes of masculinity, competition, sex, music and since it’s Linklater, pure infatuation. First and foremost this film is a comedy. It’s not a laugh a minute comedy peppered with jokes however. It’s more of a reflection of real life. A natural form of humour that you witness in your day to day life, not a single trope in sight. It is however still very funny, especially I suspect for men who can see a bit of their friendship circle, in the characters.

A lot of the humour derives from the sheer competitiveness of the team mates. Temper tantrums, stupid bets and moments of real tension. This kind of friendship is hard to depict and that’s a testament to the actors performances. To make the audience believe that despite all of the abuse they give each other they can still be friends is hard. You have those friendships in real life however they’ve taken years to formulate. The actors, particularly Blake Jenner and Juston Street, do a fantastic job of faking that. Comically however Wyatt Russell stole the show, with some of the best scenes of the film coming from him alone.

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Linklater does fantastic at showing a bunch of young men get drunk, sleep with women and play pranks yet somehow have some meaning in between. We have a man who can’t let go of the past and will go to ridiculous measures to cling on to it. We have real and powerful insecurities that young men will definitely go through. Then there’s Jake who is obviously conflicted, feeling like he is betraying himself in enjoying all these crazy college antics. It’s not a silly comedy like Animal House despite what the trailer depicts. These characters are real and that comes across well. This film is vintage Linklater and is up there with some of his best bits of work. If you’re a serious fan like me you will adore this film, if not I still think you’ll like it.

There are a few problems with the film however. It’s depiction of women is actually more typical of Animal House than it is of a Linklater. Ninety percent of them are shown as drunken stupid girls with no substance. In fact looking at the cast list, other than the main love interest, played by Zoey Deutch, I can’t seriously remember when each girl features. At the same time however the love story seems forced. We meet Deutch’s character early on and an attraction is made with her and Jake. However he then goes on to actively seek out one night stands. To then try and make him the character that transcends the typical college life then becomes less believable. Still, these are minor things that don’t ruin the overall enjoyment of a film made by one of the best living film-makers around.

8/10

Captain America – Civil War Review

Captain America – Civil War Review

Disney are the best thing to happen to the blockbuster since Spielberg. In purchasing Marvel and Lucasfilm they have revitalised the high concept, big budget action movie. Every summer now we aren’t waiting for a forced sequel of a Stallone movie. Instead we are waiting for a very natural sequel to the latest superhero film. The reason it’s so natural is due to the vast array of source material that Disney required the right to once buying Marvel. Comic books don’t stop. A series of comic books may stop, but there are always adventures to be had for our plucky heroes. This year we’ve been treated to some of the most popular comic books being adapted. Frank Millers Dark Knight combined with The Death of Superman brought us Batman Vs Superman. Now Civil War, a seven part thriller written by Mark Millar has been brought to our screens. Batman Vs Superman has obviously divided opinions, mine being mostly favourable if a little let down. Civil War on the other hand shouldn’t cause the same controversy.

When we last saw our heroes at the end of Age of Ultron (spoilers ahead, but if you haven’t seen it then this review isn’t for you anyway) The Avengers had defeated Ultron in the capital of Sokovia, leading to the retirement of Tony Stark and Clint Barton as well as the fleeing of Bruce Banner and Thor. With four of the original line up gone, newly minted heroes The Vision, Wanda Maximoff as well as fringe players James Rhodes and Sam Wilson team up with Steve Rogers and Natasha Romanoff to become the new Avengers. Civil War follows closely the aftermath of both Age of Ultron and The Winter Soldier, starting with the new team looking for Crossbones and the biological weapons he has recently acquired. When things go awry and innocent lives are lost the U.N. intervenes, saying it is time to police The Avengers. Thus beginning the initial spark that splits the group. Tony wants the team to be kept in check. The Captain believes that will lead to more deaths.

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The film deals a fatal blow to the DC universe in addressing these issues. The consequences of these gigantic fights and whether it’s possible for these heroes to continue the way they are. This is the way we are introduced in to the DC universe and it was done poorly. In Civil War however you never choose a side, instead it is an ethical conundrum and there can be no right and wrong answer. With this the film brings one of the most interesting things to happen in the Marvel Universe and arguably in the whole genre. You aren’t rooting for anybody. There is an odd sensation of loving watching the thrilling action, but having a massive inner conflict. Forget TeamCap or TeamTony, once the fighting begins then you simply become TeamMakeThemStopPlease. It’s a testament to the directors that the tone they have created actually works. After watching all these movies with these people fighting side by side, if they had tried to make us choose sides it would have fell flat. When I say thrilling action by the way, I mean it. This film has some of the best fight scenes in any superhero movie.

A big concern of mine before this film was the sheer amount of heroes in this film, but they handled that issue much better than expected. It introduced the new characters very well, blending them seamlessly in to the universe without the need for a long winded origin story. It brought back characters we’ve already been introduced to and utilised them perfectly. If they’d demanded as much focus as Stark and Captain then we’d have had a mess of a film. Black Panther was amazing and has been a widely celebrated part of the film on Twitter and beyond. Well acted, he looked amazing and brought a different kind of hero to the Marvel universe. These heroes are fighting murderers and things that want to destroy the planet. In that sense, although I enjoy the jokes, the light tone doesn’t always make sense. There is something more gritty and powerful about Black Panther. Then on the other hand Spider-Man is introduced and he is the smart mouth, funny Spider-Man I always wanted to see and it works perfectly. The contrast between these new characters emulates the film perfectly. In some ways this is the darkest film Marvel have given us. At the same time it could also be the funniest.

Robert Downey Jr and Chris Evans have lifted their performances to a different level in this film. We still see suave funny Tony Stark, but there is a twinge of anger and regret in him that RDJ plays brilliantly. It’s subtle and yet powerful at the same time. For me this is the first time Evans has ever really been Captain America. It isn’t just about saving people, it’s about doing what is right and in his mind, if he doesn’t do what he’s doing then he’s compromising himself. He has evolved from a soldier who just want to stop bullies, to someone who has complex emotions surrounding his propel in to the future and the state the world has become. Hence why he seems to cling on to the things that tie him to his past so actively. This is a far cry from the Captain who has a list of things to catch up on. Other than them, I loved Olsen’s portrayal of The Scarlett Witch in this film. Playing with similar themes as they have with Hulk, we have to address is she just too powerful to truly be a hero. I was worried about them mishandling this character as she is easily one of the strongest and most bad ass characters in Marvel history. This film has quashed all of my worries. This is easily one of the best films in its genre. Direction, acting and story are all extremely powerful and interesting. It makes you laugh, because there are time watching it when you really need to laugh. Striking a fine balance like that can be difficult, but they have got it down to a tee. I usually wait a week to go see a film again, but I am writing this just before setting off for my second viewing of the weekend. I never picked a side before or during the film, but I know one things for certain this has solidified me as TeamMarvel.

9.5/10