Category Archives: Reviews

Suicide Squad, Warcraft and Ennio Morricone: Top 10 Moments from SDCC 2015

If I had to pick one grotesquely obtuse metaphor to describe this year’s glamorous San Diego Comic Con, I’m pretty sure it would be moustachioed cowboy supernova that fuses hydrogen and glitter to make molten rainbows and vomits neurological organs.

Yeah, yeah I think that just about does it.

This was always going to be a wild card year, what with the absence of a Marvel presence save for half a dozen aimless cosplayers. But that wild card turned into a royal flush all too easily. We’ve picked out some of the best bits at this year’s SDCC, from teasers to trailers to screaming jokers. Here’s what we loved, in no particular order: Continue reading Suicide Squad, Warcraft and Ennio Morricone: Top 10 Moments from SDCC 2015

Jurassic World Review: The Blockbuster From Another Age

The Skinny

Boy makes dinosaur. Boy likes dinosaur. Dinosaur gets loose. Dinosaur chases boy. Boy has second thoughts about dinosaur. Boy makes a sequel or two to get over it. A decade or two later and we have Jurassic World, a futuristic theme park that is just itching to go all Skynet on itself. Enter Park manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard), who’s introducing a new hybrid dinosaur courtesy of possibly mad (definitely mad) Dr Wu (B.D. Wong) and is encouraged to bring in raptor trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) to ensure the new Indominus Rex can’t escape its cage. So when the Indominus Rex escapes its cage, it becomes a race against the clock: stop the dinosaur, save Dearing’s nephews who are visiting the Park for the weekend, and prevent hostile military dude Vic Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) from turning the hybrid dinos into a military asset. Will they do it? Yes. I’d say spoiler, but it’s really not.

The Good

From the get go, Jurassic World harks back to the blockbusters of ten years ago. The old school approach to action, humour, pathos and horror combines the safety of a film you know you’re going to love with the promise of some stunning new CGI scares.

Perhaps the scariest thing (other than the dinosaurs) is how realistic the visitors to the park are. Deliciously in-keeping with our modern day need for instant gratification and super-fast desensitisation to the spectacular. The combination of living monsters of the past and themed fried foods is enough to make you weep for a time when a raptor alone was enough to give you some jollies.

What seems to have been taken for granted about this film is the outrageously tongue in cheek way the premise for the film mimics the inception and production of the film itself. The audience likes dinosaurs, but it’s not excited by the same attractions over and over again. So what do the people making the attractions do? They make some bigger and badder dinosaur to scare the dung out of the ticket-buying public. Maybe if it had worked out in the film, the park visitors would have cheered for the Indominus Rex as much as they have from the cinema seats.

The Bad

Let’s just set the blindingly obvious straight: It’s not November anymore, we’re not looking for the painfully melancholy or the devastatingly sardonic. It’s the summertime and we want a ruddy block to bust. So let’s focus on the things that hold Jurassic World back as a summer smash. First off, the characters are a little two-dimensional. Sometimes, a lot two-dimensional.

The main culprit of this is Hoskins, who seems to be hell-bent on the idea of militarising dinosaurs for use against whatever foreign threat he deems deserving of having their faces eaten off. Not only that, but he seems to be completely psychopathic whilst remaining an idiot.

At one point he’s standing on the roof of the command centre watching people being attacked by pterodactyls and grinning, which is a level of evil that is far too deep and twisted to be dealt with by a dino-flick in barely two hours.

This is one example of the film stretching itself a little too thin at times, dipping its toe in pools that are filled with dull, uncooperative hermit crabs. Whether its Claire’s sister and her apparently dwindling and undramatic relationship with her husband, or park-owner Simon Masrani’s love of helicopters and oddly timed death, there were a fair few uncooked potatoes stealing the heat from the steak…in this metaphor they’re all in the oven.

The Verdict

Jurassic World treads a very unstable log between legacy and self-reliance, plunging feet into either side seemingly effortlessly but always deliberately. There are more than enough callbacks in Trevorrow’s expansive Park to keep sales of the Jurassic Park anniversary Blu-Ray up and rumours of hidden connections between Spielberg’s and Trevorrow’s stories sizzling away. But at the same time, there is a very believable alternate reality where Jurassic World exists and Jurassic Park 1, 2 and 3 do not. As a sequel however, Jurassic World does exactly what a legacy movie should do and what George Miller just did with Mad Max: Fury Road – it makes you think fondly of the original and forget the questionable filler movies in between.

The plot has feet of steel that know when to creep, know when to run and definitely know when to kick. Are there too  many jokes? I dunno, ask the Marvel Universe. They’ll probably answer with a pun and you’ll enjoy it like we all do. Because what’s a summer blockbuster without a little silliness? It’s dry, it’s unbearably serious and not nearly as self-aware as it should be. Fortunately, Jurassic World has no lack of self-awareness. So go and see it fools!

7/10

Review: “Kingsman: Secret Service” is the Erogenous Zone You Forgot You Had

It’s been a long time since I was really excited to see a spy film. I’m not overly intrigued by the idea of a “thriller” so unless it’s got an Ian Fleming story credit, I’ll be more likely to pass than not. But Kingsman: Secret Service has a secret weapon on its side: it knows exactly when to take itself seriously, and when not to.

The Skinny

Richmond Valentine (played by Samuel L. Jackson) has gotten it into his head that the only way for mankind to survive is to kill off a big chunk of the population and take some pressure off the planet’s resources. So, why not hypnotise the world into killing each other while keeping all the best people in a morally dubious hidey-hole? Why not indeed! The only people to stand in his way are the Kingsman, an organisation of tailors-turned-gentleman-spies. However, since a Kingsman recently suffered death by being cut in two, there’s a gap in the ranks: a gap the size of Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton), a rough kid with potential who is taken under the wing of legendary Kingsman Harry Hart (Colin Firth). But will he be enough to stop Valentine from carrying out his evil scheme? Well, it’s a film, so yes.

The Good

Like every good action film, the action in Kingsman starts when it should – seven seconds in to the sounds of Dire Straits. From that point the shots and punches rarely let up for a moment, speeding up when you need it, slowing down when it’s damn well worth it, only stopping to allow for a spot of exposition or let the audience catch their breath. Comic adaptation dream team Matthew Vaughn (director) and Jane Goldman (writer) carry on a lot of strong traditions from earlier collaboration Kick Ass, balancing bouts of bombastic violence with a bubble pop and rock soundtrack. That way the audience can appreciate the film’s prolonged violence for its choreography and cinematic rhythm. It’s in these demos that Firth really struts his stuff and gets to show off how to be sexy and English without being rigid or romantically confused.

It’s also worth mentioning that Jackson is 66, but that doesn’t stop him taking on roles that would easily baffle other actors his age. Sofia Boutella also stands out for her role as Gazelle, a scimitar-legged assistant to Valentine who acts as a lightening rod for a lot of the more volatile fight scenes.

The Bad

There are really only two points of grievance within Kingsman. One is the use of CGI, which while colourful and at times spectacular (see everyone’s heads blowing up like fireworks in time to “Land of Hope and Glory”) isn’t of a high enough standard to match the rest of the film’s achievements. There were points when the sub-par effects were distracting and took away from what was going on on-screen, but fortunately you weren’t focussed on them for too long before something stupid cool took your mind off it.

The second downfall is the tendency the characters had to go meta with the concept of traditional spy movies – a concept that the film otherwise successfully fills with explosives and detonates. There are interactions between Jackson and Firth that make glaring references to how much they love the old Bond films, with a running line in the film being ,”It’s not that kind of movie”. While this does work as a wink to the audience from Vaughn and Goldman, it smacks of glibness and seems completely unnecessary – especially when its repeated throughout the film. At least they didn’t stick it on the movie posters.

The Verdict

Vaughn and Goldman took all the available canon for spy movies old and new, serious and parody, and took it apart chunk by chunk, skin and muscle and unnecessary fatty tissue until they were left with a rock-steady espionage skeleton. From there they brought their considerable experience from numerous comic book/action projects to build a hybrid of spy film that takes unabashedly from Bond and sticks a middle finger up at all the padding that more recent serious spy “thrillers” stack on top of otherwise wafer-thin plots. On the surface its jocular and brutal, bloody and ballsy, but at its core Kingsman is a kings-held screaming orgasm of a film. And it might know what you like better than you do.

Review: “Penguins of Madagascar” is the only sequel in the franchise worth seeing

I found it hard to like the last two films in the Madagascar series, but that’s mainly my fault: I find it hard to have any sympathy for a character played by Ben Stiller. But that’s my cross to bear, not yours. Here’s a review of the latest instalment, the feathered spinoff Penguins of Madagascar. Have a read!

The Skinny

While the penguins have the good sense to ditch the quadrupeds they’ve been hanging out with for three films, they wind up breaking into Fort Knox and running into Dave the Octopus, an old nemesis who wants revenge on all penguins for ruining his career as a zoo attraction. So Dave plans to use a serum that will turn all adorable penguins into unlovable monsters. If that wasn’t bad enough, the penguins lock horns with the North Wind, an international organisation that protects animals in need (yes they are animals too). In the end, it’s down to private to prove that he isn’t just the cute one of the group and take his place as the hero of the film and, to an extent, the franchise. Good luck private!

The Good

For a family film in a formulaic franchise, there’s a ridiculous amount of jokes in Penguins just for adults. It’s mainly wordplay and winks to the audience about movie tropes and previous Madagascar downfalls. Other than that, the quick karate slapstick that makes up most of  the penguins’ animation manages to stay fresh for most of the film. While the previous films really felt like they were just being made for the sake of a sequel, there is a real sense of just-for-the-hell-of-it fun that takes a lot of pressure off the film and gives it a cheekier, more relaxed feel. John Malkovich really plays into it as a megalomaniacal octopus and you almost wouldn’t believe Benedict Cumberbatch is the wolf leader of North Wind with all the sports-caster voice fluxes he comes out with. It’s an alcoholic bouncy castle for veteran characters and actors alike. That’s quotable right?

The Bad

Half of the characters in this film don’t really need to be there. The entire cast of the North Wind is unnecessary, particularly in terms of plot as they seem to just be an extra problem for the villains and the penguins to deal with. Although I’m sure they have an extra benefit of being a cushion that stops us being rubbed raw with penguin dialogue. The most disappointing part of the film by far is that I was sure that I’d just seen a Madagascar product that didn’t have a single lemur in sight. And I nearly made it until the film wrapped up…and there they were. The annoying King one and the annoying little one. I know the names and the actors who play them, but I’d rather not further the stereotype that anyone needs to know who they are.

The Verdict

A lot of Penguins of Madagascar‘s charm comes from its distancing from the other tired characters from the last few films. I kind of wish that they’d forgone Escape to Africa and Europe’s Most Wanted and gone straight to a penguin spinoff, but then maybe we wouldn’t have appreciated it as much back then. If you see any film in the franchise, see this one. Give it a bit of breathing room and you’ll laugh a decent amount for a family film.

Rating, 3.5/5 Stars