Thursday, 17 May 2018

Deadpool 2 (2018) - Film Review

Review:

I don't think anyone could have imagined how big the first Deadpool turned out to be, I remember loving it when it first came out, but slowly went down in my books with each viewing. It's good fun, but ultimately a very safe and boring origin story mixed with childish humour and adult rated violence.

2 years later and we have the inevitable sequel that had a lot to live up to, and for the most part, it more or less exceeds expectations, despite a few problems. Deadpool 2 is essentially everything the first did, but dialled up to 11. This feels like a hyperbolic statement, but this is one of the most grotesque mainstream releases I remember seeing in quite some time.

It picks up a few years after the first and Deadpool is now an international assassin, taking out kingpins, drug dealers etc, but after some spoilery events he gets involved with a young mutant with fire powers and a time travelling soldier trying to murder the kid. It's straightforward enough, but the stakes are much more worth investing in than the first. 

What everyone came for in Deadpool 2 though is the humour and that is both the best and worst part of the sequel. The run-time is extended from the first and the joke rate is so outrageously high, it's a bit relentless. Meaning, since there are such a huge amount of jokes, only a good chunk of them actually hit, with a lot of the gags being instantly outdated and not very funny. 


There was a lot of Deadpool saying random things with no real context that mostly left a shrug from me. Where the jokes exceed most though is with its jabs at superhero films, pop-culture and Ryan Reynold's career (The mid-credits scene is genius). It does feel like cameo galore at times too, with a couple of great ones and a couple I didn't even realise till I read online after. 

What really interested me in Deadpool 2 was the change of director. The first was directed by a first time filmmaker who did a fine job, even if his action wasn't massively memorable and I was surprised re-watching it recently just how little action there was in it. 2 on the other-hand is a huge improvement in terms of action. John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch brings such energy and brutality to the action. There's nothing as memorable or impressive as the club scene from John Wick or the stairway fight from Atomic Blonde, but it's still extremely fun to watch and there is a ton of action here that stood out. The opening montage and convoy attack for one. I hope Leitch returns for part 3.

The sequel also includes a much more impressive cast. Josh Brolin is damn good as Cable, a time-travelling cyborg Terminator with a personal mission and a huge improvement over "Francis" from the first. The "X-Force" are also introduced kinda, and in all honesty they are pretty wasted, but done so in way that makes for a genuinely funny and expectation diverting scene. Also did not expect Zazie Beetz Domino to leave much of an impact, but she was definitely one of the better characters. Lastly, T.J. Miller's Weasel is massively sidelined and barely in the film, which is easy to see why, I imagine there is a lot of his work left on the cutting room floor.


None of this really matters though, because this is Ryan Reynold's film through and through, he is still the perfect version of Deadpool, continuing to seek redemption for what was done to the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While a few of his jokes don't land, Reynold's still carries this film and makes it an endlessly watchable ride that is just a blast despite its shortcomings.


Deadpool 2 isn't perfect and it might be a little too relentless, but it's one of the most entertaining and grotesque mainstream releases I've seen in a while. Insanely violent, a lot of fun and makes up for a lot of the originals shortcomings. 

8/10 Dans

Watch the trailer below:


Deadpool 2 is out now in cinemas in the UK
With a 4K UHD Steelbook available to pre-order from HMV

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Thursday, 3 May 2018

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) - Film Review


*Originally written May 3rd, 2018*

Review:

Avengers: Infinity War had a lot to live up to. It's the culmination of an insane 18 films of hit-or-miss quality and 10 years of build up. I had my worries about Infinity War. Packing all these characters into such a huge film. Would it work? I wasn't sure. While it is far from perfect, this is a fun, effective, ambitious and surprisingly emotional epic that spells the beginning of the end for a decade worth of superhero films.

The structure is more in line with Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, while the characters never all meet up in one huge scene (And a couple are curiously absent), everyone has their moment to shine and a part to play. A lot of the team-ups were unexpected, but mostly work. It's hard to talk about without spoiling, which I will not do.



Marvel has always had a villain problem, 90% of them are bland and throwaway fodder just to fill the space of a bad without any real character. Thanos, on the other-hand is a completely different beast. Josh Brolin delivers an extremely developed and compelling villain. It's so rare that a villain comes along where you completely agree with his motivation and why he does what he does. Despite being the bad guy, he has genuine heart and emotion behind him, leading to a moment of surprisingly brutality that I didn't think the MCU had in it. It really helped that Brolin is given such a huge amount of screen-time, possibly more than the heroes themselves.

Much like the Guardians films, this is an extremely gorgeous film to look at, filled with mostly impressive CG (Aside from a couple of Thanos' throwaway goons). It's not just the CGI too, the cinematographer is top notch too, there's so many bright and beautiful locations, a far cry from the ugly and televisual Age of Ultron.  Alan Silvestri's score was also fantastic. Again, scores are something the MCU seem to overlook, so it was great to hear a memorable orchestral score in a Marvel films.

Like I said, it's not all perfect though. A big problem I have had with the MCU is the lame humour and while there is quite a bit of eye-rollingly embarrassing comedy here, it's not as intrusive as it has been in the past. It's much more in line with Civil War, where they let moments of emotion breathe rather than throw in some stupid joke and remove any kind of tension. That said, there are some moments that are genuinely funny, it's not massively hilarious, but I do have to remember these kids films, despite how dark and mature Infinity War gets.



And Infinity War does get dark. A lot of people die, some long running, some not. While some of the deaths will be impossible for the MCU to commit to, it didn't make the ending scenes any less haunting or unsettling. There were one or two deaths that just got a collective shrug from me though, particularly the ones early on.

Infinity War really is a hard film to talk about, it's half a film, despite losing the "Part 1" in the title, this really feels like the first part of a film, and luckily we only have a year to see the resolution to the Empire Strikes Back style ending, but based on this, I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.


Superhero fatigue might be slowly kicking in, but Infinity War manages to be an ambitious and devastating entry into the now 19th film MCU that are slowly learning from their mistakes. I don't know what more I could have wanted from this film.

8/10 Dans

Avengers: Infinity War is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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Friday, 23 February 2018

Fifty Shades Freed (2018) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written February 23rd, 2018*

We've finally made it, boys. We made it to the end of this god-awful putrid trilogy, whether you watched it out of dedication to your girlfriend/wife, ironic laughs, or if it's just because you hate yourself, it's over. God, I hope so at least. Based on the money this garbage series has made, I wouldn't be surprised if they try to milk this franchise for more.

The series ended like it began, with a poor script, laughably bad plot-twists and some of the most bored acting I've seen in a while. Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey's story is at an end and after three films, these characters have barely changed. I'm honestly not sure what the character arc of these people was meant to be.

Christian Grey is still a complete bore and a controlling sociopath, despite now being married and facing the prospect of children in his life. Anna on the other hand has just become less shy, but is still in love with a complete creep. Honestly, what kind of relationship can last when your husband's reaction to the news you are pregnant happens like it does in this film?

Despite the stars being payed mega money for this garbage franchise, I oddly feel sorry for Jamie Dornan, you can just see the regret in his eyes during every scene. They're vacant with a hint of sadness. He just looks bored and his lack of chemistry with Dakota Johnson, who is still trying with the god-awful script she's reading from, bless her.



For a film series that's about BDSM, the trilogy is at least consistent with delivering the least sexy sex scenes that from been there from the start. It's all remarkably tame and poor. There's a scene with Ben and Jerry's that comes off as just disgusting rather than erotic. I mean, have you ever wanted to see Dakota Johnson lick ice-cream off a hairy nipple? Well, this film might just be for you. Gross.

As much as I'm trashing this garbage display. There is at least a lot of ironic entertainment to come out of this. I found the first hour or so incredibly boring, but once the film bizarrely changes tones into a thriller, I had some of the best laughs I've had all year. The plot-twists and where things go are so bat-shit insane. Things just happen with no reason then with no real consequence. Realism is thrown completely out of the window and is all the more entertaining for it. It's astonishing how incompetent this whole series has been. The last five minutes also include a big moment that feels like it addresses some sort of closure for Christian that I don't think had even been mentioned before?

They also do a complete Spectre plot-twist involving series villain Jack Hyde and the characters reaction to the news is one of utter indifference rather than shock, it was incredible. The last scene even tries to pull at the heart strings of the fans of this series by giving you a highlight reel from all three Shades films before going to credits. Incredible.


Fifty Shades Freed better be the last entry in this series, because I am done. It ended like it started, a poorly acted, disastrously plotted and scripted mess that can only be enjoyed by laughing at it. RIP Fifty Shades. I hope to god everyone involved can move on from this series and forget it ever happened.

1/10 Dans

Fifty Shades Freed is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Monday, 19 February 2018

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written April 14th, 2016*

Definitely not the "political thriller" people seem to claim it is. Sure it has elements of this, but Captain America: The Winter Soldier really is just another Marvel affair, although it's one of the best efforts from them.

In Captain America's second solo outing S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised and he doesn't know who he can trust as a new villain emerges in the form of the 'Winter Soldier', a killing machine with ties to Cap's past.

I know it's widely considered so, but Winter Soldier is easily one of the best films in the MCU so far, top 3 material for sure. I wasn't a huge fan of the first Captain America film, so I was pleased at what huge step-up this one was.

The themes of national security play a big part here, although I feel it could have been explored a bit more, but whatever, this is a comic-book film, not a statement on society. The film asks what's more important, freedom or protection, but it never gives a clear answer either way, which is fine. This looks to be explored a lot more in the upcoming Civil War.

What Winter Soldier does better than any Marvel film to date is finally the first decent villain in the form of the Winter Soldier. He's a terminator sort of character, violent, scary and emotionless. He is way more intimidating than anything the MCU has had to offer before hand. It's just a shame that Robert Redford's bad guy was kinda boring and forgettable.


There are some cool nods to other Marvel films. I never even noticed at Dr. Strange got a mention in any of the other watches, but that's probably because he's still in my mind due to the recently released trailer for his solo film. Also gotta mention a fantastic cameo that was Abed from Community in a tiny role.

The action is also far more impressive and less "CGI smashy-smashy". There are some genuinely memorable action scenes like Nick Fury's SUV attack and the now iconic close quarter elevator fight. I'm the directors of this film are back for the next one, they have a talent for creative set-pieces.

I still really like Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America. Still the most likable of all the Avengers. He's modest and easy to get behind, unlike some of Marvel's other characters. Evan's brought the heart to this film, I've always liked the "man out of time" idea and he nails it pretty well, his fight at the end also feels like it has genuine weight to it, mostly thanks to the performance.

My only real complaints are it goes on a bit too long and my problem with all Marvel films. They don't look like films, they look like really expensive episodes of TV and really lack their own visual style, which is such a shame. That said, this looks a lot nicer than both the Avengers films.


The Winter Soldier is one of the most successful films in the MCU to date, filled with memorable set-pieces, Marvel's first decent villain (Outside their Netflix shows) and an engaging story.

8/10 Dans

Captain American: The Winter Soldier is out now on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Black Panther (2018) - Film Review

Review:

*Originally written February 17th, 2018*

I went into Black Panther with relatively low expectations. I find most of the first standalone films in the MCU to be their weakest. I wasn't surprised by the critical acclaim Panther received though, good or bad, these films get a free pass from the critics, so I went in not knowing entirely what to expect. To my surprise, this was pretty excellent and while it suffers from a few of the problems most superhero films succumb to, this manages to fix a few of them.

This opens an entire new world within the MCU, Wakanda is a gorgeous, fascinating place that mixes futuristic sci-fi ideas with old fashioned tribal aesthetics. I have to bring up the society's backward system of using a monarchy and royal family though, such a stupid and broken system and only leads to the trouble they get into at the end on the film. They had it coming.

Black Panther wasn't the best in Civil War, but Chadwick Boseman really makes the role is own here, a near James Bond like figure with charisma and gravitas to him that makes him insanely watchable. Aside from a few lingering threads to Civil War, his story feels entirely standalone, which I always appreciate in this now 18 film franchise. 


Boseman is joined by a cast of very memorable supporting characters too. Panther's sister is a sort of Q like presence that provides the team with gadgets and weapons, Martin Freeman is given a lot more to do than he did and Civil War, I was surprised at how much screen-time he was given too, I suspected he was going to be nothing more than a cameo, but he's a pretty big supporting character.

On the villain side of things, Michael B. Jordan is excellent, one of the finest villains in the MCU yet, a sympathetic sociopath with clear motivations, motivations you could actually get behind and a surprisingly emotional character arc. He was a far cry from the wasted bad guys the MCU usually put out. Andy Serkis was also great fun in his role, I just wish he got more screen-time in this whole thing.

Coogler directs the 135 minute film with a brisk pace and the whole film does look gorgeous (The MCU seems to have finally broken away from the awful televisual look that plagued Avengers 1-2 and Captain 2-3). Some of the action is fluid and kinetic to watch, it's just a shame the film succumbs to that annoying third act where boring pieces of ugly CGI hit each other. The final fight on the train tracks is disgusting to watch, some of the worst special effects the MCU has had to date. Which is a shame considering how small in scale the early scenes were.

I wasn't a huge fan of all the hip-hop music either, a lot of the time it just didn't fit and felt forced, but at the very least it was far more memorable than the utterly forgettable score here. I'm pretty convinced there wasn't one at all in all honesty?

One of my biggest problems in this series has been the lame humour that ruined some of their films. Thankfully, this is a lot better in that department, the writers know when to shut the characters up and let the tension in a scene breathe, rather than ruin it with an embarrassing joke to make 6 year old children laugh. It's not all perfect though, that lame humour does pop up every now and then, a particular character towards the end ruined some potentially effective scenes.


Black Panther is far better than I was expecting, a gorgeous, beautiful film that expands the MCU, tells its own story and finally delivers a great villain, it's just shame it falls into the third act trap of bombastic garbage CGI towards the end.

8/10 Dans

Black Panther is out now in cinemas in the UK
Watch the trailer below:
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Tuesday, 13 February 2018

The Cloverfield Paradox (2018) - Film Review


Review:

Netflix surprised everyone at the 2018 Super Bowl, not only did they release a trailer for the untitled Cloverfield film (Now titled 'The Cloverfield Paradox'), but they also made the shocking announcement that the film was released and ready to watch that same day. It's a ballsy move that certainly raises questions and sets an interesting precedent on how films are released, but after watching it, it's easy to see why this was released on Netflix rather than theaters. 

The Cloverfield franchise itself has been a very interesting one. First we had a found-footage monster film that sparked a new age of mystery (I was only 11, but I remember all the hype and excitement of the viral marketing. People guessing what the monster would look like etc), it was the golden age of internet film fandom, back when IMDB had message boards, remember those? That came and went, with rumblings about a sequel which never surfaced until 2016, when a trailer was dropped for 10 Cloverfield Lane, which was releasing only a couple of months after the trailer was shown. 

I was hugely excited for this. I liked the idea of these little anthology horror/thrillers taking place in the same world. Now it's a shame that the series may have just faded into nothingness with this extremely disappointing dud of a sci-fi thriller. Once you look a little closer into the troubled production of Cloverfield Paradox, you start to see why this was released the way it was. It went over budget and Paramount were sure it would flop, so they sold it to Netflix for a small profit and cut their losses there.

On a space station titled 'Cloverfield' a group of bland scientists discover that the Earth has disappeared after an experiment goes wrong, weird shit goes on and things go pretty much how you'd expect. This isn't a problem, I'm fine with formulaic films as long they at least have some character or something to grab you. It's just there's nothing here.

Despite it's $50 million budget, it looks like garbage. This doesn't look like a film, aside from a few visual flourishes, this looks like an expensive TV pilot, and I'm not sure how this happened. I watched the first episode of Netflix's Altered Carbon recently and despite being a TV show, it actually looks more like a film than this does. It feels like some Asylum knock-off of Life (Which was a fairly generic sci-fi horror in itself, but it at least had fun with it).


The cast are nothing, vastly underwritten objects that spout poorly written exposition in ways that get more and more laughable. Chris O'Dowd does bring some fun to proceedings, but his character gets more irritating once you realise he is nothing more than comic relief and absolutely nothing beneath the surface. I'm a week removed from this film and I'm failing to recall anyone's name. 

Things happen in this film without any real explanation. We're told "Parallel Universes are colliding", but this doesn't explain why so much happens, including some outrageous coincidences. Some cool stuff does happen though, the stuff with the hand was morbidly funny in an odd way and last shot of the film is pretty easy to figure out early on, but it still brings back a familiar face and gets me a bit excited for the future of the series, despite the problems this film has caused.

While most of the events take place on the space station, a side-plot (That goes absolutely nowhere) takes place on Earth during what we assume is the first Cloverfield. I was all for this, but the story line is aimless, pointless and leads to nothing. Making me wonder why an extra 20 minutes was added to this mess in the first place. I know this had reshoots to tie it in to the Cloverfield brand, so I assume this was shoehorned in to pay some fan service. It doesn't work.

One of the biggest problems here is the attempts to over explain things for the franchise. They couldn't just let them happen with no explanation, they had to come up with some lame reasons why the events of the first and second films happened, who cares? A giant monster attacks a city, we don't need a franchise to explain why. 


I saw it the day it was announced, which is the most interesting thing about this mess. We're only in the third Cloverfield film and it seems like they've already ruined it in this bland, poorly written mess. Here's hoping 'Overlord' is better than this.

4/10 Dans

The Cloverfield Project is streaming now on Netflix UK
Watch the trailer below:

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Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Den of Thieves (2018) - Film Review


Review:

I had no expectations for Den of Thieves, a mediocre heist film released in January starring Gerard Butler and 50 Cent, much to my surprise I really enjoyed this throwaway crime-thriller for better or worse. If nothing else, it was great to see Butler give a decent performance.

There's not a lot to the story (Despite the absurd length), cops vs criminals and it all collides leading up to a daring heist the criminals are planning. Only this time the cops are corrupt. It's nothing special or particularly interesting, but I have a real soft spot for both heist films and films about corrupt cops.

Gerard Butler is far and away the best part of this whole thing. His performance is odd, fascinating and unhinged. There's moments of brutality and he's actually quite funny too. Although I'm not entirely sure if I was laughing at the film or with it. This is the sort of role Butler was born to do, not those awful rom-coms or family dramas he seems to get roped into. 

For a first time director, Christian Gudegast does an insanely good job and shows real promise as a director. He films action extremely well, the set-pieces have shades of Michael Mann in them while retaining it's own gritty and visceral style. There's not actually a lot of action here, but Gudegast manages to create tension within most of the scenes (One of the final scenes reminded me quite a lot of the highway scene in Sicario, although obviously not as effective). 


For the problems, the script is a total trainwreck, it's utter trash. Which makes me sound like I hated it, but I actually had a lot of fun with just how bad some of the lines were and the big twist at the end is one of the most outrageous things I'm likely to see from a 2018 film. I was in disbelief at that sequel-baiting final shot.

With such a big ensemble cast of characters, everyone aside from the two leads are very underdeveloped. Butler and O'Shea Jackson Jr. steal the spotlight, but everyone else is just left as blanks. Pablo Schreiber (Pornstache from Orange is the New Black) is just wasted in a forgettable villain that does not earn any of the emotional payoff it thinks it deserves towards the end. Most of the emotional payoffs are actually laughably bad (One involving a single tear drop was outstanding).

Being nearly two and a half hours does this whole thing no favours either, this is barbarically overlong and the could have used some serious trimming in the middle during the build-up to the heist. There's a really breezy action-film here, but at 140 minutes, it is a bit of a slog.


Den of Thieves is what it is, a January throwaway action film with some incredibly directed action, a committed performance from Gerard Butler and it's just a fun trashy time overall, it could have just done with some trimming and a better script. Really hope to see a spin-off starring Gerard Butler's 'Big Nick' though. 

6/10 Dans

Den of Thieves is out now in cinemas in the UK
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Deadpool 2 (2018) - Film Review

Review: I don't think anyone could have imagined how big the first Deadpool turned out to be, I remember loving it when it first cam...