Thursday 28 August 2014

Worst to Best - Marvel Cinematic Universe (so far)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a poster child for a film franchise. Over the past six years it's dished out a number of high budget superhero films, almost all of which have earned huge profits at the box office. The shared universe between these films generated enormous amounts of hype for its main event, The Avengers, which united all these iconic heroes into a massive ensemble blockbuster; set to replicated next year with Avengers: Age of Ultron.

The likes of Sony and Warner Bros. are highly keen to mimic the success Disney has now achieved, and although Harry Potter remains the highest grossing film franchise, the MCU will surpass it by next year.

Despite their profitable outcome, the quality of the films is mixed - and so we will rank the current releases right now in this list!

#10 - Thor: The Dark World (2013)

I'm not gonna repeat my feelings on this train wreck of a movie, so I'll make this quick. Thor: The Dark World is truly nothing special, but so much so that it can't even be classed a half decent movie. Notable flaws include a weak villain, awful comedic timing and no heart to the narrative whatsoever. The filmmakers made no effort to innovate a tired formula and so we get a generic setup and generic final fight; nothing else flourishes in this overlong pile of rubbish.

#9 - Iron Man 3 (2013)

Though not an unbearable watch from start to finish, Iron Man 3 is nonetheless a massive disappointment and a lacklustre entry to the Avengers canon. It starts up well, and seems to have a very promising villain, but an infamous plot twist negates all of that effort and turns the film into an unfunny, unfocused bore. Stark has never been so unlikeable despite a decent performance from Downey, and so Iron Man 3 becomes a memorable superhero flick - for all the wrong reasons.

#8 - Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2 is once again not a terrible film, but it doesn't equate to a satisfying experience by the time the credits roll. Fun action sequences and impressive visual effects aren't enough to save the film from its terribly contrived plot, unlikeable rendition of Stark, and poor villain. Compared to the first Iron Man, this is a thoroughly disappointing sequel.

#7 - The Incredible Hulk (2008)

Perhaps one of the MCU's lesser known films is the rebooted Hulk movie from 2008. Starring Edward Norton who has now been replaced by Mark Ruffalo, The Incredible Hulk was met with disappointing box office returns which is why there's been no sign of a sequel in the six years since. Its CGI effects are weak and its story dull, but fast paced action scenes and a solid cast add up to an enjoyable film regardless.

#6 - Thor (2011)

Thor is lacking on the action front, and perhaps could've timed its jokes better, but otherwise it's a solid superhero flick with the usual visual splendour we've come to expect from MCU films. Though it recycles countless cliches in Hollywood filmmaking (particularly with its romance), a fantastic villain, solid emotional focus, and a brilliant climax add up to one of the MCU's better entries.

#5 - Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

After the unspeakably awful 1990 film, Captain America's return to the big screen is undoubtedly one of the MCU's finest titles. Overly patriotic as it is, The First Avenger is still an all round enjoyable popcorn flick; the story isn't that intelligent, but this paves the way for an all round fun experience with plenty of action, likeable characters, and a threatening villain.

#4 - The Avengers (2012)

Four years into the MCU's lifespan, the first ensemble blockbuster arrived in the form of The Avengers; collecting over $1.5 billion across the globe, it has become one of the highest grossing films of all time and undeniably had comic book fans orgasming in excitement upon its launch. It's a brilliant film, no doubt about it; Joss Whedon has a solid script which he's directed beautifully with tons of thrilling set pieces, a heart to its characters, and some excellent jokes. Its story is a little thin and sometimes contrived, but otherwise, this is definitely one of the best superhero films ever made.

#3 - Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Despite The First Avenger earning a mediocre $370 million, extended familiarity with the character after Avengers dramatically increased the hype for The Winter Soldier, which has gone on to earn over $700 million globally. Much different from its light hearted predecessor, The Winter Soldier is an exploration of interesting political themes within a surprisingly dark story, packed with some superbly choreographed action. Featuring a notable performance from Robert Redford and of course the rest of its star studded cast, The Winter Soldier succeeds in being a tense and thrilling superhero flick.

#2 - Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

The Guardians of the Galaxy are one of the lesser known superhero teams, with the current lineup only being introduced back in 2008. In spite of this, their first entry to the big screen won over its audience with a fun premise that results in a light hearted blockbuster suitable for a wider demographic. A seemingly goofy story is embraced with tons of humour, yet the film never sinks into a brainless parody and still has a sweet emotional tone along with thrilling set pieces and wonderful performances from an excellent cast.

#1 - Iron Man (2008)

In 2008, the MCU began with Iron Man's cinematic debut - which earned over $300 million in the US and $585 million worldwide. Such earnings don't go undeserved - Iron Man is a thoroughly entertaining hit that rests on a brilliant script and excellent direction. The film isn't crammed with bags of unnecessary action, but because the story itself is so gripping and the film so well paced, we continue to be entertained as everything unfolds. The fantastic cast comprised of Robert Downey, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Terence Howard all perform wonderfully - this is currently the only MCU film to actually have a likeable rendition of Tony Stark. He transforms from an arrogant douchebag to a genuine hero, but still retains his witty humour, and such care to character development is missing in quite a lot of superhero flicks these days.

Funny, visually dazzling and superbly acted, Iron Man in summary is easily the best film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday 21 August 2014

Movie Review - What If

It's not easy for an actor to escape a role they seem to have been horribly typecast in, but ever since the Potter franchise ended in 2011, Daniel Radcliffe has done a bang up job of it. Ranging from horrors to dramas to dark fantasies, his resume is steadily expanding beyond his renowned origins, and this continues with the charming rom com What If. If you're confused, it's called The F Word overseas.

Young medical student Wallace (Radcliffe) is repulsed by love since he broke up with his ex, but when he stumbles across Chantry (Zoe Kazan) at a house party, he becomes immediately infatuated once again. Finding out she has a boyfriend soon after they meet, their bond falls into the friend zone - but as time goes on, flourishes more than they may have initially thought.

Though it seems content to recycle countless genre conventions, What If manages to stand its ground with a quirky script and a fantastic cast, all of whom perform brilliantly. Radcliffe himself demonstrates a level of comedic talent to further credit himself as a diverse actor, and Zoe Kazan shares a wonderful chemistry with her co-star. Her character lacks the likeability of Radcliffe, but regardless, she has her own charms to support their on screen bond. Supporting actors include Adam Driver, Rafe Spall and Adam Driver; them and their characters also fuel the films fast paced sense of humour.

There are issues with pacing in the middle, originating from the film trying too hard to be funny. It never fails to generate laughs, but sometimes favours them over developing the actual storyline - a trait that may get rather annoying to some. Everything is smartly penned by the clearly talented Elan Mastai, but some characters really know how to get on your nerves; namely Megan Park as Dalia, Chantry's irritating sister. But with all these issues aside, What If remains a charming comedy with an upbeat spirit, understanding the emotional weight of its story without being too depressing or pretentious.

Sunday 10 August 2014

Movie Review - Guardians of the Galaxy

The Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to expand as yet another installment approaches; however, Avengers aside, this marks the first non sequel addition to the series since Captain America debuted back in 2011. Guardians of the Galaxy unites a band of misfits who were established in the comic book namesake back in 2008, and pits them a in a battle against once the galaxies fiercest villains.

Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is a 'legendary' outlaw who dubs himself Star-Lord; after stealing an orb containing an unstoppable power, bounties are placed on his head, and the merciless Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace) sends his daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to hunt him down. The large bounties attract hunters Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), while a mutual path for justice attracts the vengeful warrior Drax (Dave Batista). Initially intolerant of one another, the newly formed team are soon forced to unite and fight together when Ronan's villainous lust for the orb leaves the entire universe at risk of destruction.

Guardians of the Galaxy is perhaps the best film in the entire MCU since Iron Man in 2008, finding a perfect balance between the embracement of its light hearted premise and the genuine emotional stakes of the story. Writer/director James Gunn has a script packed with jokes that never fail to keep the plot a likeable and fun experience; it never tries to take itself too seriously, but at the same time, the script manages to make a seemingly wacky premise an engrossing adventure that's far more than a parody of the source material. Timing is a key factor; other MCU films like Iron Man 3 and Thor: The Dark World had some decent jokes that cropped up in scenes that just didn't demand them. They fell flat as a result, but Guardians times its witty gags perfectly and as a result it's absolutely hilarious without being desperate.

Its excellent humour aside, Guardians is still warm and emotional, thanks to a plethora of sweet tender moments that help us connect to this loveable lineup of characters. Of course, with such a huge budget and sci-fi premise, Guardians is also stuffed with visual magnificence, both in the CGI motion captured characters and the thrilling action scenes. The ensemble cast perform brilliantly, particularly Cooper as the ever so awesome Rocket, as well Chris Pratt as Star-Lord. Compared to the likes of Iron Man or The Winter Soldier, which contained much stronger political themes and complexity, Guardians is a tamer affair that opens up to a wider audience. It definitely benefits from such a glorious sense of fun, and proves once again that blockbusters can be light hearted and action packed and still be as awesome as more intelligent styles of film.

Friday 8 August 2014

Movie Review - The Inbetweeners 2

When The Inbetweeners ended its television run in 2010, the wait for the eventual film was all but agonising. It hit cinemas less than a year later, and appeared to establish a firm conclusion for the entire narrative. But, three years on, a sequel as arrived in the form of The Inbetweeners 2; is it an unnecessary money grab or a much desired return? Let's begin...

Will McKenzie (Simon Bird) detests his life at University after becoming an outcast amongst the other students. Simon Cooper (Joe Thomas) is stuck with his borderline psychopathic clingy girlfriend Lucy (Tamla Kari). Neil Sutherland (Blake Harrison) has landed a full time job in a bank. As for Jay (James Buckley), he's off on a gap year to Australia; apparently living the life of luxury with his own nightclub, his own mansion and a mass of gash. He invites his friends for a visit, but once they arrive they see Jay has been relaying his usual lies; with the obvious truth now revealed, they must still find a way to make their holiday last and, as usual, nothing goes to plan.

The Inbetweeners 2 is without a doubt one of the most disgusting films I've ever seen, but this is a key factor as to why I adore it. Its predecessor had its fair share of crude humour, but the most intense moment was perhaps the shocking reveal of Jay's penis - a scene which surely made every audience member gasp before their hysterics. But that is tame compared to this film has to offer - writer/directors Damon Beesley and Iain Morris have released all restraints to gross you out and leave you in stitches; brilliantly funny conversations are joined by some rib tickling slapstick and and perfectly structured, and equally repulsive, visual gags.

This time round there's much less focus on story and more on comedy. Initially, the direction is a little clumsy, and the plot seems to travel down a vague path once the boys reach Australia. It lacks the stronger narrative and character like-ability of the first movie, but Will's typical social commentary and the iconic personalities of the lads themselves definitely make up for this. Less depth to this plot may seem like a big problem, but the absolutely fantastic sense of humour the film exudes is a strong redemption; and results in a superior experience to the original for sure.

Friday 1 August 2014

Worst to Best - Spider-Man

The Spider-Man film franchise has journeyed down a rocky road since its birth in 2002 - Sam Raimi's trilogy achieved great success twice in a row and then tanked horribly on its third outing, and Marc Webb's rebooted series has received lukewarm reception to say the least. Five films currently reside in this franchise and so, in the spirit of previous posts of mine, we shall take a look at each and rank them in terms of quality...

#5 - Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Spider-Man 3 has some fantastic action, but the story is where everything falls apart. Peter Parker has changed from a likeable nerd to a smug idiot, and Kirsten Dunst is ten times more annoying as Mary Jane; who has become a useless, hypocritical, manipulative bitch that we are still expected to like. An overabundance of villains is of course the most widely discussed flaw: Venom, Sandman and Harry Osborn as the New Goblin fight Spidey in a story that just cannot focus on anything and one which is built off too many contrivances. It has good intentions, but ends up being a massive letdown.

#4 - The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

The rebooted stage of the Spider-Man franchise seemed promising after the outstanding casting and the announcement of the Lizard being the main antagonist - this could surely be a reboot as good as Batman Begins, right? Well, not exactly, but The Amazing Spider-Man is not a bad film whatsoever. It's well directed, brilliantly acted and does its best to deviate from the 2002 original. However, the plot gets more nonsensical the more it goes on, particularly as the Lizard's evil plan comes to fruition, and it all wraps up with a clumsy final act. The film frequently recycles dated genre cliches and also takes a leaf out of Prometheus' book: leaving audiences watching the credits with tons of unanswered questions. Had they stepped back, focused on fine tuning the script and stopped being so friggin keen to shit out this movie as quick as possible, we may have got something much, much better.

#3 - The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

Nobody doubts that Sony are rushing to build an Avengers-esque franchise as quick as possible; third and fourth films in the Amazing series are already being developed and a Sinister Six spinoff arrives in 2016. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was released less than two years after its predecessor and became the lowest grossing Spidey film while receiving lukewarm reception to boot. The canvas is way too crowded with extra characters, and this is after some had been cut out, but whoever cast this film was inspired. Everyone fits the roles perfectly and while some contrivances disrupt the flow of the story, it's a lot more interesting than its predecessor and boasts some fantastic action sequences, as well as villains who ended up being a lot better than they were advertised to be.

#2 - Spider-Man (2002)

While Batman and Superman had their live action film debuts years previously, 2002's Spider-Man arguably triggered a mainstream appreciation of high budget superhero films after it earned over $820 million worldwide. Sam Raimi takes the iconic superhero and brings a fun and occasionally dark story to life with some stylish direction. It can sometimes feel a tad sluggish as we wait for Peter Parker to don his alter ego, but regardless, a threatening villain and satisfying emotional focus make this still one of the best superhero films to date.

#1 - Spider-Man 2 (2004)

It's the cliche choice for sure, but one that's undeniably true: Spider-Man 2 is not only the best film of the franchise, but even one of the best superhero films of all time. It employs an even deeper focus on the emotional burden of Peter donning the Spider-Man persona; he fails at school, loses his job and even the love of his life. This complexity brings a stronger level of humanity to the story, and makes every scene entertaining, so we're never bored waiting for the action to begin.

Alfred Molina's portrayal of Doctor Octopus is magnificent to say the least. His design is spot on and the effects used to craft the mechanical arms, using both CGI and prosthetics, truly bring him to life. The bank fight and train fight are two of the most iconic scenes in superhero history; it makes absolutely no sense how a normal human villain can take the superhuman blows of Spidey (don't give me the Spidey pulls his punches bullshit), but hey, whatever. This film remains one of my all time favourites.

Thanks for reading!