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.

Apocalypse

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

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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

Odeon Scream Unseen – Green Room

Odeon Scream Unseen – Green Room

Odeon launched Scream Unseen last night, Screen Unseen’s dirty cousin it seems as we have been promised that the films will be horrors, thrillers or just gore fests and the first offering was Green Room. I had read quite a bit of positive buzz about this film all over the internet from various sources who saw it at various film festivals. Throw into the mix that Jeremy Saulnier directed this, who debuted with the superb Blue Ruin (well worth checking out if you haven’t seen it) also the fact it’s not out here in the UK till 13th May and its safe to say I was pretty excited for this film.

This film is dirty, grimy, nasty and pure horrible and I mean that in the best way possible. Such a throwback to grimy grindhouse cinema, this film is a high stakes pressure cooker. One thing I loved about this film was the slow build up. I went to see it with my girlfriend and afterwards she said it took a while to get going but that’s what I loved most about it, I cared for all the members of this punk band who are trapped by these white supremacists neo-nazis. That is pretty much the plot of the film, which fits perfectly with the late night midnight screening cult crowd. I could easily see this film being shown as a double bill with Blue Ruin. Jeremy Saulnier proves here that he is one of the best low budget-genre indie filmmakers around as he superbly shifts genres from revenge noir into siege mechanics reminiscent of Assault on Precinct 13.

The film opens with us meeting the band The Ain’t Rights and the impressive thing about the opening 30 minutes of this film is that in that short time we learn who the characters are and not just names but motivations and who they are as people, see them play a cover of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off which doesn’t go down too well and also stumble upon a corpse backstage which leaves them holed up in the Green Room. The manager of the club Gabe played by Macon Blair star of Saulnier’s Blue Ruin, who after learning of what has happened calls in Darcy (Patrick Stewart) who I have never seen play evil in a film and you can see he relishes this opportunity. He nails his performance as the wickedly intelligent leader with a real cruel mean streak about him.

Like many great film’s of the 70’s this film has intelligent witty fast paced dialogue mixed with truly shocking gory moments, some of the violence here is extremely brutal. It is tense viewing as both sides try to work out ways in which to outsmart one another and the writing here allows us to be invested in both sides whilst the shock horror/violent moments hit us in short but extremely memorable bursts. Some may complain that this film isn’t a socially aware film which is delving into the mix of the American neo-nazi scene but when a film knows its a genre film which is here to make us laugh, wince and be shock value who really cares?

Overall I would say this a truly riotous film with fantastic performances and a real true grit underneath its darkly comic tone.

7/10

 

Netpicks – Trash

Netpicks – Trash

 

First off I have to apologize for not posting one of these recently, the simple reason is that I have been working a hell of a lot so finding the time has been difficult but don’t worry I’m not going anywhere!

So Trash then just by its name you might think this could be literally a Trash film but let me assure you it is far from rubbish and is a true hidden gem. I first heard about this film on Film 2014 on the BBC and they gave it a good review and I thought to myself “yeah I will check that out one day” and like many films it totally went under my radar due to a limited theatrical release and not much press coverage. So when I saw it pop up on my Netflix it triggered my brain and I thought I would give it a watch.

The film is about three Brazilian boys who find a wallet which contains a key piece of evidence which the corrupted officials are after to stop there corruption of the city becoming public knowledge. I found this film remarkable for a number of reasons the first being the performances of the three young lads. I genuinely think they need to start doing some sort of awards ceremony for young actors because seriously they are starting to outshine older actors in films. Look at Room or Beasts of No Nation for example the young actors performances in them films knocked my socks off and its the same here. The three lads were found by the films director Stephen Daldry living in Brazil picking litter (as they do in the film) and that rawness and emotional connection cannot be faked and there are scenes in this film which pack a true powerful punch as you believe the emotion behind them far more than if trained actors were cast. The film also has stellar Hollywood polish with the ever reliable Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara pop up in key supporting roles which just elevate the performances of the three boys.

The film is action packed and more importantly unpredictable as the chase is on the action tells the story and it rarely lets up but the films screenplay allows for brilliant character moments as well. I will admit that there is a whiff of City of God about this film (well worth checking out if you haven’t, also on Netflix) but every film which is set in Brazil gets compared to that film and some reviews I have read of this film stink of unfair criticism. The film has a vibrancy to it and real kinetic energy to it which kept me glued to the screen as I not only wanted the boys to solve the mystery within the film but I actually cared about the characters. The film is real, raw and powerful but never sentimental or candy coated which is a rare thing to see as to many films try to push our emotional buttons with the subtly of a sledgehammer.

Overall this is perfect entertainment for those nights where you wanna stay in and watch a film. Also a great film to watch with family or a girlfriend as it has something for everyone. A real peach of a film.

8/10

 

Odeon Screen Unseen – Demolition Review

Odeon Screen Unseen – Demolition Review

Monday was Screen Unseen time again. Anyone who reads our reviews often know that Sam and I do not miss a Screen Unseen. Sam has changed shifts, I’ve cancelled plans, just generally there is no missing it. Apart from this time, I was not hyped at all. Again if you read this blog often then you’ll know the past two films have disappointed me. I didn’t read the clues that Odeon tweet. I didn’t even change my disgusting jeans that I’d just brewed a batch of lager in. So stumbling in completely unknowing and reeking of booze, I still decided to go. Then the title card popped up and we discovered that this week we would be watching Demolition. I was pleased, because I really wanted to see this film anyway. It’s directed by Jean-Marc Vallée who created Oscar winning Dallas Buyers Club and Oscar nominated Wild, both of which are fantastic films. The latter made me once again baffled as to why people hate Reese Witherspoon. Then it stars Jake Gyllenhaal, who is really making waves to become one of my favourite actors, acting alongside Naomi Watts who is fantastic in everything she’s done, including the crap films. The film is about a man who loses his wife and the subsequent chain of events that this event leads to. Sounds depressing right?

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Well you’d be right and you’d be wrong. I guess if you look at the film in context, it generally is quite depressing, but throughout you find yourself laughing more than fighting back the tears. The film addresses with a very complex issue in fact. What kind of man are you, that when your wife dies you feel nothing? Does this mean you never loved her? Have you just become numb? These are the questions that Davis (Gyllenhaal) is having to put together in his head. It would be easy to depict a grieving husband who feels he can’t go on without the love of his life. Wallow in self pity, meet a woman, become friends, realise you want more, feel guilty, have hallucination of dead wife wanting you to move on, happy ending. I just wrote the entire premise in the space of thirty seconds. In dealing with these complex issues we are introduced to a much more interesting character. I guess that is the best thing about this film, the characterisation. Karen (Watts) is a pot smoking single mum, who is dating her boss that she doesn’t love. Watching her deal with her child, who it’s safe to say is a troubled kid as well as being with someone she doesn’t love, because he’s a good man who looks after her. Davis and Karen develop a strong bond over the fact that Davis is saying and acting how she wants to act, because she is still shackled by the relationship that he no longer has. At the same time Davis develops a relationship with her fifteen year old son Chris played by Judah Lewis. Chris also becomes inspired by Davis’ ability to just do and say what he means without fear of consequence.

These complex characters interacting leads to some very charming moments, some really funny moments and basically makes these insane emotions, that would fry the average human, much more palatable. The film itself is quite quirky. It begins by using the very interesting narrative device of Davis writing to a vending machine company about some peanut M&M’s that failed to vend. This takes on an almost narrator role, but at the same time has a massive impact on the world within the film. After that there isn’t really a story at all, rather just a sequence of events. The story itself is contained within the emotions of the characters. Also this film is called demolition for a reason. There is a running motif of destruction throughout that leads to some scenes that are both very disturbing yet very entertaining. I read a review of Batman V Superman (I’ll shut up about it eventually, probably when I’ve seen Civil War) that was complaining that the film had no moral at the end and he likes a film with a moral. At the time I scoffed and thought this is the real world, not an Aesop fable. However throughout this film I was waiting for some kind of emotional pay off. Something that makes the character learn something about themselves. I felt like the film makers tried really hard to give us that with a sentimental ending, but instead it felt forced. It felt completely out of character for the man we met both before and after his wife’s death to the point were it didn’t feel real at all. There was no hint of progression in to this, it just seemed to happen.

Overall this was a very good film once again from a very talented director. Performances and characterisation make it what it is, with some very interesting story telling techniques and I’ve not mentioned it yet, but a quality soundtrack in my opinion. Although I felt disappointed with the conclusion of the film, I can honestly say I loved every minute of it and urge you all to not let this film get buried. Some genius decided it’d be a good idea to release it on the same day as Civil War so it’d be easy to ignore it, but seriously go and see it, I’m confident you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. After all this is real life not an Aesop fable, I’m sure you can get over the ending.

 

7/10

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

10 Cloverfield Lane Review

Well this is a very late review, with this film being out a long time, but sometimes life gets in the way, sorry about that! I want to start off with talking about Cloverfield, of which this is a kind of sort of sequel. I really was not a fan. I can’t get gripped by these disaster movies and more so I am also sick of the whole found footage thing. It was a nice idea when Blair Witch Project did it and added an element of realness to the whole thing. Since then it’s become a gimmick used in films like Cloverfield and Chronicle. So when 10 Cloverfield sneaked up on us all, I was not in the slightest interested in going to see this movie. Until I realised it wasn’t found footage and wasn’t a big budget disaster movie. That made me think yeah, I might see it. Then of course John Goodman sealed the deal and got my arse on the seat. Thank goodness, since I enjoyed every second of this film.The premise of the film is a Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has split up with her fiancé Ben and is doing a runner. On her drive to god knows where she is hit by a truck and knocked unconscious. When she wakes up she finds she has a busted knee, lay in what looks like a spooky dungeon type thing, attached to a drip and cuffed to a pipe. She is then greeted by Howard (John Goodman), a conspiracy theorist, who tells her he’s saved her life by bringing her to his bunker. He claims that the air outside is contaminated and if she leaves she will die. This is corroborated by Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) who is in the bunker with them. What follows is Michelle coming to terms with the end of the world as well as her suspicions surrounding her saviour.

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Horror movies for me where a massively dying industry. Once we got the Exorcist, everything was trying to do the same thing. The Ring, The Grudge, The Orphan, whilst I admit can be entertaining watches, on a whole are very unoriginal and badly made films. In 2014 however I think we finally saw a shift. It Follows and Babadook where released to massive critical acclaim and rightly so. 10 Cloverfield Lane has followed in the same vain. This film is as much psychologically terrifying as it is physically. You as an audience member don’t know who to trust from one minute to the next. I found myself terrified from about twenty minutes in until the credits. You genuinely care for Michelle and Winstead does a fantastic job of putting you in her head. Only The Shining has every made me feel so uneasy before, but in a good way. John Goodman portrays his character fantastically. You go from hating him, to feeling sorry for him, to being creeped out by him, to liking him to… you get the idea. You know Goodman is going to be a physically empowering and intimidating figure on screen. In this film however he has shown he has a complete arsenal in his acting war chest. He truly sends shivers down your spine when he interacts with Winstead. John Gallagher does a great job of humanising this film as Emmett. Since you feel like you are placed in Michelle’s position and you can’t possibly relate to Howard, he becomes the character that makes it feel real. The comic relief when needed and the heart from time to time. Overall just a fantastic performance from all three of them.

This is also one of the tightest films I’ve seen since Whiplash. Timing is something I often mention in my reviews. Straight Outta Compton went from slow to rushed, Batman Vs Superman needed chopping up to take out twenty minutes. This film is edited to perfection in my opinion. I couldn’t find a single scene that needed removing and they paced the story perfectly to the point that when the film ended you had the odd feeling of being fully satisfied yet craving more. In a world of sequels and prequels and franchises this has to be the thing that will ultimately make people stand up and pay attention to the talent surrounding the film. Screenplay wise it was a really well told, interesting story. However it did fall in to the trap that all horrors have fallen in to for me. The dialogue cant be very tedious and over descriptive. I get the necessity since usually horrors contain a circumstance we can’t comprehend without explanation. However this film uses the aesthetic  aspects of storytelling so well they should have trusted the audience to understand what was going on more.

This has been one of the most difficult films to properly review without giving away any spoilers other than basic premise and again in looking at the end it gets more difficult so all I will say is this film ends very strongly, giving you both a great emotional pay off and putting you on the edge of your seat. I love being surprised by the quality of a film and this film truly shocked me about how good it is. I guess even out of the depths of crap that Cloverfield dragged us in to, there is always a good story to be told.

 

8.5/10