Thursday, 2 June 2016

OJ's Movie Review - X-Men: Apocalypse

A superhero franchise that's lasted sixteen years without being cancelled or remade! Surely that's some kind of record.

   So X-Men: Apocalypse is either the third, sixth, or ninth film in the series depending on how you're counting and stars James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence returning for a third time while bringing in new cast such as Oscar Isaac, Sophie Turner and Tye Sheridan. The basic plot is that an ancient, powerful mutant known as En Sabah Nur has awoken in the 80s and wants to "cleanse the earth" of the weak and so the X-Men must stop him.
    As a whole, I like the X-Men franchise; despite it's bumps I've always felt it's had it's own vibe and personality and is different enough from other comic book universes such as the MCU and the not-so-connected DC properties. X-Men: Apocalypse continues in this and although shares similarities with other movie plots still feels like an X-Men movie. The stories we witness in this film are some of the finest we've seen in the franchise. The two biggest characters we've been following for years of course are Professor X and Magneto and each of them are so well-developed and incredible characters you know exactly what they are feeling and why they are where they are. Magneto's arc in this film is a highlight and from one particular scene in a forest you are hooked on his story and understand why he's doing the things he is. Professor X is great as the leader and strong-minded force who keeps the X-Men together and he really has some great scenes, especially towards the end. Another story in this movie is of course the one of the titular character himself, Apocalypse; his backstory in Ancient Egypt alone was a thrilling and well executed event and when you really see what he can do in the 80s I found him to be the most powerful and best villain they've had in the franchise. Just his voice, and mannerisms are so dark and menacing you really feel like he is an unstoppable threat.
    Apart from those three, other character highlights were the young Jean Grey, Cyclops and Nightcrawler who fit well into the story and I really enjoyed seeing them, and then of course Quicksilver returning from Days of Future Past doing much more in the movie including one of the best scenes of any superhero movie, beating that of his previous. Everyone else did OK but weren't really used as much; Jennifer Lawrence's Mystique doesn't do quite as much as she has done and never has her own 'action piece' as it were and then three of the horsemen, Psylocke, Angel and Storm each had one particular shot that was cool but mostly stood around until the climax where they still didn't have too much screen time.
   Effects wise, all the powers and abilities looked fantastic. There was a lot of CGI and green-screen during the climactic battle and for me personally I thought that all looked just fine. There were one or two specific shots which weren't particularly good in my eyes but that was it.
   Some problems I had with the movie was that, as I said, some characters didn't really have much screen time and/or didn't really do anything at all (looking at you Jubilee) and then another thing isn't really a problem as it is the ninth X-Men-related movie but X-Men: Apocalypse requires you to know and remember quite a bit of the past films and this universe in general, so it makes it almost inaccessible completely to the general movie-going audience and unless you've seen at least five of the other films a lot will go over your head and seem out of place. And as a final negative point there were two scenes in particular that pushed the 12A (PG-13) rating to it's limits which will be fine for a lot of people but I think some will be quite surprised at how dark they went.
   Other than that X-Men: Apocalypse is a really powerful and thrilling superhero movie, and for me one of the best in the series, not quite beating First Class as my favorite.


Thursday, 5 May 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Captain America: Civil War

So here it finally is. Since its announcement back in 2014 we've all been eagerly awaiting this Marvel milestone, lapping up every bit of news until today. So, what did I think?

   Captain America: Civil War has been called "Avengers 3" by some people because of the amount of Avengers that star in the film and it's a valid observation...until you see the movie. Somehow the Russo Brothers, with this huge ensemble cast, dealing with the Avengers themselves, adapting an infamous comic book actually make it still feel like a Captain America movie - which is great! I mean don't get me wrong, you see a lot of other characters and I loved seeing a lot of other characters but it really worked well continuing Cap's story that was left off in The Winter Soldier, which I really enjoyed because Bucky Barnes was one of the most interesting things about that movie and I enjoyed seeing him progress here.
  And talking of characters, there were quite a few to juggle about but the Russo's once again did an excellent job of not making it confusing or crowded. I'll just go through a few of them real quick. Captain America and Iron Man were great as always, Iron Man was not always his one-liner quip guy in this, he has a lot of stuff to deal with so it was interesting to see him in that light; now I went into this movie on the side of a particular team but boy if you don't start questioning your loyalties during this movie then something's wrong; there were points being made that actually made me see the other guy's side so I was happy to see both sides presented equally, after all it is a Civil War. Black Panther gets his movie debut here and what an introduction it was, he is a fantastic character who I cannot wait to see again, his motives were solid and clear and his third-party angle to the war made it really intriguing to watch, definitely looking forward to seeing Chadwick Boseman in his own Black Panther film. The two sidekicks, as it were, Falcon and War Machine were great to see again and do a lot more plot-wise I think so it was nice to see everyone used really well. Vision and Wanda were fine in their roles again, I think I preferred them in Age of Ultron for some reason, they just seemed more interesting then whereas here, although they were great to see again, I didn't feel as invested in their characters as I was others. Ant-Man was fun to see too and boy do we see him, I'm obviously not going to spoil anything here but he was definitely one of my favorite parts of the movie. 
  Now during all this Civil Waring there is actually a villain in the movie and for me, he was one of the best villains Marvel have done in their Cinematic Universe; I felt his motives were valid, his intelligence was shown very well and his scenes were just really interesting to me.
Just before I get into what I wasn't such a fan of I'll mention Spider-Man. Tom Holland is a great actor and does a great job in this, it was really cool to see Spider-Man interact with the Avengers and see him do his stuff. That being said, this Spider-Man was not quite what I was expecting; I don't read the comics so from just a movie-going viewer with the past five Spidey movies to go on, this incarnation was quite different in the way of how they handled him. I've been told it was the most comic-accurate Spider-Man and the best version they've seen of him on screen so I have no place to complain but for me it was a little jarring to see such a change from what I was used too. But I did of course enjoy seeing him on screen and really look forward to seeing him again.
 Now some things I wasn't so struck on. The first action piece; a battle near the very start of the movie just seemed off for some reason. I don't know what it was but it just didn't flow for me, I didn't enjoy who they were fighting and although it does set up something important a lot of it felt unnecessary. The first quarter of the film I'd say was very much a going from set-up to set-up sort of thing and was a little shaky script wise but the plot eventually straightened and it was great. Another negative I have was that once or twice the CGI was quite noticeable, in some of the action scenes and particularly Vision sometimes it wasn't great. And then something that wasn't necessarily wrong with the film but those darn trailers again. We'd go to one location and I'd instantly recognise it from the trailer so I knew what was going to happen, and that occurred nearly every time they went somewhere else; not all the time mind you, but quite a lot I was already knowing what scene this was leading up to.
  In the end Marvel roll out another blockbuster with one of the best ensemble casts and an investing, emotional story. For me it wasn't the best film they've done but a real strong shot from the Russo Brothers and set's up a lot of cool characters for the future.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

OJ's Movie Review - The Jungle Book

Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book is about the seventh film adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's book and we already know it certainly isn't the last. So how does this one fare?

As with most people, I grew up watching the 1967 animation and fell in love with it, so I was a little irked when I learnt they were going to make, what I thought, would be a frame-for-frame remake, but thankfully I was wrong! 2016's The Jungle Book, although takes a number of ques from Disney's famous classic, is certainly not tied to it; this is it's own thing and does well for it. I enjoyed the fact that I didn't quite know what was going to happen next, and seeing where Mowgli's adventure took him kept my interest; so on a plot standpoint it is familiar on a basic level but with new elements and expanded storylines it felt new and original with a bit of nostalgia sprinkled in places.
   I do of course have to mention the cast; they were all wonderful in their roles and superb to listen to but I do want to highlight three. Bill Murray is a fantastic Baloo which shouldn't surprise anyone, he delivers some great lines and he's such a likeable character, I really enjoyed his performance. Idris Elba plays a very menacing villain as Shere Khan and certainly gives this version of the character a very unlikable bully-type personality which worked well, although it took me a while to stop picturing Elba himself as I watch a lot of his live-action work. And then for me one of the most fascinating and unnerving characters was Christopher Walken as King Loui, he was so well suited to the role I always wanted to see more of him, the character had a huge powerful presence onscreen and I enjoyed that a lot. On a side note, Neel Sethi did a top-notch job as Mowgli with a few moments where you could see he wasn't sure where to look for these CGI animals but for the majority he did exceptionally well for his first film and especially one of this sort with very little to act with.
  I just want to quickly mention the music now; the score is absolutely fantastic, from the very opening scenes giving you a rush of familiarity to the wonderful new sounds John Debney scores over the jungle, it was really a pleasure to listen to. Now the music also segways into some problems I had with the movie...
  I don't think it's a spoiler to say that a few songs from Disney's animated classic make it into this movie, but I'd like to say I enjoyed the first one they did as it was more of a bantering back-and-forth type of singing without going full musical which I think works better in this live-action setting; the second song they did though I didn't feel flowed as well, almost jarring to a point as it seemed a little off, but that's just me personally. And the third one was my favorite but that wasn't present during the film itself, so sit back and enjoy some of the credits when you watch.
  Another negative for me personally was some of the portrayal of this world. They had super-realistic animals doing sometimes very animal behaviours and and they cleverly combined that with some of the script and humour but once or twice the cartoony sequences I felt didn't quite gel with the visual realism I was seeing.
  In the end, The Jungle Book was a fun movie with great story, character and music but had one or two moments of iffy CGI and creative choices. I think it will definitely be the definitive 'Jungle Book' for a lot of kids and look forward to seeing the announced sequel and Andy Serkis' take on the book in a few years.


Thursday, 31 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

After three years we finally have the Justice League prequel that we didn't really ask for but went along with anyway.

It seems like we've been waiting for this movie for ages; 2016 seemed like the distant future but now it's here and we're finally seeing Batman and Superman on the live-action big screen for the first time ever. So was it worth the wait? Is DC now pointing and laughing at Marvel? Well...
  I'll start with what I liked. The beginning of Batman v Superman was great. The opening scenes were shot extremely well, Zack Snyder knows how to make something look good this movie looks great. And then we get Bruce Wayne's perspective of the last act of Man of Steel and I enjoyed that a lot; it made it seem real and what it would've been like for a civilian perspective which made for some interesting scenes; so the directing itself and the camera work was really well done. And then there were two or three scenes dotted about I really enjoyed too, one including Holly Hunter's amazing acting in the Capitol building scene that was really tense.
  Another positive for me was Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luthor; I know a lot of people don't like his representation of the character but purely as a movie villain, I thought he did a great job and was very creepy and menacing; he also had this music that played when he appeared and that was great. Hans Zimmer once again delivers a fantastic score.
    Now moving onto what did not work. There's no easy way to put this, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a complete mess. It is so incredibly choppy I didn't know what I was supposed to be focusing on. There were at least four different movies in here; and they didn't really gel at all. There would be a scene following one character's agenda and then it would cut randomly to a different scene with different characters and I think OK, this is later on now but then after what felt like only a minute it would cut back to the first scene and I was like, "Oh, this is still happening". And it wasn't as if the scenes were related; the whole tone, the music and narrative would change. So imagine that happening with four different movies all at the same time I didn't know what to keep track of in the end. Random things would happen that made no sense and they had no desire to explain them or even hint at why it was happening. Even the characters of Batman and Superman themselves; did you think they had some sort of moral code? Some things that you think Batman doesn't do or Superman we've already seen can't possibly do? Nope, all out of the window without an explanation which made for just a really depressing movie; I cannot think of one scene where something nice or good happened or that justice prevailed or a feeling of satisfaction.
  And don't get me started on easter eggs; I'm obviously not going to spoil them but they were the most forced, shoe-horned, rushed teases I've ever seen. Things I was supposed to be excited for came out of no where and did not fit at all in what was happening.
  In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a choppy mess with one or two distinct highlights and a good score but with a lack of narrative and so many moments it didn't need I have to give it...


Thursday, 24 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - 10 Cloverfield Lane

Title, poster and trailer all revealed two months before it's release? I think I'm OK with that.

So 10 Cloverfield Lane stars John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr. The basic premise is that a woman wakes up in an underground bunker where she is told that a chemical apocalypse has made the air outside toxic. That's all you need to know, that's all you want to know. So, let's get into my review...while sidestepping pretty much everything about it.
  First of all I have to give props to the director, Dan Trachtenberg; you've not heard of him? That's because this is his first feature film. I mean seriously, I hope this guy goes on to have a long and successful career. 10 Cloverfield Lane does not look cheap or amateur in any way despite only having about a $15,000,000 budget; he really only had three rooms to film in so it made for some really claustrophobic and uncomfortable moments, and even with a limited setting don't be surprised if your heart starts beating a little faster and tense up. As a summary of my introduction to Dan Trachtenberg: I think he's going places.
  Acting-wise; wow. John Goodman plays 'unstable' exceptionally well; when he's around you're trying to work him out and figure what his deal is and when he wasn't on screen I was just thinking "Where is he. Where is he". Mary Elizabeth Winstead is fantastic as well as this woman who suddenly wakes up not knowing where she is or what's going on; but she wasn't some helpless wimp, she had a bit of knowledge which I think made things realistic. John Gallagher Jr. did well in his role as well; I'm not familiar with his work but he did absolutely fine as his character Emmet. So on an acting front I can't really fault it.
   Now with the plot, I'm not going to spoil anything because I think the less you know before going in then the more you'll enjoy it but if you're hesitant because you haven't seen 2008's found-footage film Cloverfield which has been called "a blood relative" or something, don't worry at all; while a connection is plausible 10 Cloverfield Lane is completely stand-alone. The narrative of this movie itself I think is very rare but utilises some familiar imagery which make for a thrilling experience because you do not know what's coming next.
  As a conclusion, I really enjoyed 10 Cloverfield Lane and it's refreshing to see this sort of originality and an upcoming director.


Thursday, 17 March 2016

OJ's Movie Review - Allegiant

It was either this or The Maze Runner sequel, but what's the difference anyway?

So Allegiant is the third film of the Divergent series, an adaptation from one of the many teen post-apocalyptic novels. As I said in my Insurgent review I really enjoyed the first movie, it was very entertaining and it had a good story and characters and the second one I thought was very weak and it didn't really seem to know where it was going until the last act.
  Allegiant picks up not long after it's predecessor and follows Tris, Four and a few others venture out beyond the wall. I'll start with the things I liked about the movie; the cast for one thing are still great. I think Shailene Woodley and Theo James still do excellently as their characters and despite Miles Teller's off-screen persona I enjoy watching him act. A new addition to the franchise is Jeff Daniels who looked like he came straight from The Martian to play the same character, but he suits that type of person so I enjoyed his role here. Another thing I always enjoy with these movies is the world building; I like the look and design of both sides of the wall and find it visually interesting every time I see it.
  Some things that didn't work for me in this movie now. The special effects for some reason, I don't remember it in the previous two films but here quite a lot of the CGI was really noticeable; some of the green screen didn't blend in to well and the flying vehicles sometimes looked a bit video-game quality. It didn't detract too much but it certainly took me out of the movie once or twice.
  Now I have to say the plot was handled better than Insurgent as it had more of a story and actually did things but overall it just didn't seem as big. Amongst the choppiness, Insurgent had tense simulations and a huge reveal at the end but Allegiant seemed just....Okay. It was comfortable, it was mellow, it didn't seem as impacting or meaningful. Also there were some major points that they kind of just brushed over; scenes and reveals I thought were integral to this world were shown or mentioned but nobody seemed to be that bothered and just accepted it.
  In the end although Allegiant was better that Insurgent in the sense of pacing and I enjoyed the landscapes and technology they showed, it didn't quite have the level of interest for me and the climax felt like something you'd see in a TV series.


Sunday, 27 December 2015

OJ's TV Review - Doctor Who series 9

It's been ten years since Doctor Who has been back on our TVs!? It can't be!

Series 9 gives us Peter Capaldi's second run as The Doctor and what a run it was. Even the pre-title sequence in the first episode can give a long-term fan a mind-blow. The opening two parter was an interesting one and although was unusual gave us some great appearances and easter eggs.
   As the series went on I noticed that there wasn't really a continuing story-arc, you know that little scene they usually put in every episode that has a pay-off in the finale, there wasn't really one here. I really liked that; there are maybe one or two lines of dialogue you can look back on now as a foreshadow but all in all each story was self contained. I enjoyed there being a lot more two-parters as well, it allowed for a more paced plot rather than a rushed ending. All-in-all the majority of episodes I really enjoyed, making series 9 one of the best series since 2005.
   Of course there were bad episodes, in my opinion The Girl Who Died, Sleep No More, and The Husbands of River Song were just dreadful. I know they have their fans but for me personally, I disliked a good portion of each of them.
   In the end I think series 9 was one of the best series so far and Peter Capaldi is still an excellent Doctor, Jenna Coleman was good, as always, despite my dislike for the character and I rather enjoyed the finale, which is unsual for me and Doctor Who.