Justice League trailer #1

So it’s here, the first official trailer for The Justice League after several years of anticipation from fans and a teaser from a few months ago, we’ve had a few short second teasers in the past couple of days and here’s our first official look, the film being set after Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad as several meta-humans are gathered to form a team to protect humanity – by Bruce Wayne and Diana aka Wonder woman, following the death of Superman.

And that’s more or less what we know about the film, it looks like they’re fighting Parademons (goons of DC enemy Darkseid) so presumably he’ll play some part in this, though Snyder looks and Warner Bros look to be making a point of not showing the main villain or Superman, though he will inevitably be in it (because of course he will, he’s Superman). Anyway we do get some new footage of the league members in action and of them taking shape as a fighting force/team, though it’s still weird for me, seeing them without the Green Arrow and Green Lantern. I do like the aesthetic of the film so far, with some people doubting Flashs’ and Cyborgs’ costumes, they do look considerably better now than in initial images, plus the action does look good, so far anyway.

A big plus for the film is the tone as well, DC clearly isn’t taking Justice League too seriously and they’re incorporating jokes and a lighter tone, which I think fits in really well with characters like The Flash and even Batman, with his wit and sardonic tone, playing off humorously with characters like The Flash and Aquaman. Honestly it’s a so far, so good situation with the League and I fully believe DC will nail it with this time around and if they don’t… well the critics clearly have it in for DC, am I right?

Well I’m hoping it will be as good as it looks and not fall into the Snyder style over substance trap because if Justice League is a critical flop, it may really tarnish the DCEU going forward, commercially it’s pretty much covered and I’d be surprised to see it not be a hit but we’ll see how it does otherwise, when it hits theatres in November.

The Princess Bride review

Robb Reiner directs this fantasy anthology story, told by a grandfather who tells his sick grandson a story called The Princes Bride, the film stars Cary Elwes, Mandy Pantikin, Robin Wright, André The Giant.

One of the funniest fantasy films of all time, The Princess Bride is a fantastical and fun affair, a tale told by a grandfather (Peter Falk) to his grandson (Fred Savage), following a story of love as noble swordsman Westley (Cary Elwes) searches for the love of his life the princess bride (Robin Wright), he’s accompanied by Fezzik (André the Giant) and they run across Inigo Montoya (Mandy Patinkin). A very family friendly, fun adventure with an unapologetic comedic tone and feeling of absurdity to things, things play out like a kids fairytale with the stories, characters and animals featured.

And the film is genuinely pretty funny as well, jokes hit well and the characters themselves are memorable, funny and have some great dialogue, a credit to the films solid writing, the characters are most of what makes the film so fun with characters like Westley, the fair, noble and wise swordsman, winning with wit and confidence, funnily as opposed to strength, in contrast to Fezzik – played by André the Giant. And opposed to impetuous and drive, embodied in Inigo Monyota, out on a one man mission to avenge his murdered family members, the characters intentions and differing motivations make for interesting interactions and a fun crossing together of personalities.

Also the situations the characters get themselves into add quite a lot of laughs, especially in the first half with Westley and the Princess, things don’t exactly run as you’d expect them to between them and that playing on expectations is another feature that makes things pretty enjoyable, if you think this is a traditional story of a noble prince rescuing a princess and riding off into the sunset, it’s not, well not exactly. Subverting tropes and expectations is key here, playing on well established fantasy story stereotypes and expectations, the prince for example is a bit of a buffoon and far from perfect, beating obstacles in humorous, rather sill ways but still going along a heroes journey in a sense.

The style of the film is quite a fun one, a light tone underlines everything even when things feel to get a bit dark, even with extended action scenes with the dialogue present, the comedy is definitely an ever present feature and that’s because no one is really that serious and you can tell the actors are quite enjoying themselves, especially in the more absurd scenarios and scenes, which definitely translates to the viewer I feel, with this being a film that’s very easy to sit back and enjoy. The bad guys present also make for a fun aspect to the story, borderline mustache twirling in their plans and the way their talk, obviously amped up to play to the films over the top style, characters like Prince Humperdinck (Chris Sarandon) make for a fun contrast to the stories good guys. The result is a memorable, tongue very firmly in cheek fantasy comedy and a highlight of the 80s for sure with some great writing, well done humour and good casting, one of the better comedy films in recent decades.

7/10

. Genuinely funny dialogue and situations characters find themselves in

. Great character interaction, good writing

. Nice feeling of fun to the plot, brought out in great characters

Kong: Skull Island review

All hail the king

Jordan Vogt-Roberts directs the action thriller Kong Skull Island, set in 1973, post Vietnam war as an expeditionary group sets off to the uncharted skull island with the aim of charting and surveying the island, though they unintentionally come across huge mysteries the island has to hold, including the enormous Kong, the film stars Samuel L Jackson, John Goodman, John C Reilly, Tom Hiddleston, Brie Larson, Tobey Kebbell, Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell.

I’ve recently heard Skull Island being described as Apocalypse Now meets The Land That Time Forgot and as humorous as that description is, it’s actually fairly apt and to think that no one (probably) came up with the idea of post Vietnam 70s, uncharted islands and giant monsters almost seems crazy now, especially after watching the film, everything just sort of falls in place and it makes sense for the context of the film – with some needed suspension of disbelief of course. The film is absolutely what you’ve seen in trailers and also pretty much what you will expect of it but I’ll acknowledge it for its merits – it’s fun, a decent amount of fun for a monster/action film, even with its predictable elements and clichés that are obviously played up to for humorous effect – the crazy westerner marooned on the mystery island away from civilization, the various types of meat head marines and so on, tropes you’ve seen several times before but this time around, the final product is actually pretty good.

Vogt-Roberts achieves this through a few ways, with a pretty great cast I might add with the likes of Samuel L Jackson as Colonel Preston Packard, a pretty Sam Jackson-esque role in every sense of the word but a role well fit for him, whereas actors like John Goodman bring some gravitas to proceedings, along with the ‘new kids on the lock’ like Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell and Brie Larson – this effectively being her first big blockbuster role, the cast is all solid which is a bit of a surprise. Though unfortunately not all of the characters get maybe as much time as you may want them to, with not enough on most of their back stories apart from a few snippets of dialogue here and there, this didn’t bother me too much as I didn’t really care about the human characters as much say Kong, ironically, I was all in for the action and spectacle and it was there in plenty. Though if you want a bit more depth from the humans in this flick you may feel a bit disappointed and I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to know a bit more about former SAS tracker James Conrad and his story – played by the ever suave Tom Hiddleston or the anti-war photographer Mason Weaver (Brie Larson),

And talking about spectacle, the film really does live on it, with brilliant aesthetic style evoking the feeling of Vietnam in the 70s’ from popularised images in history and from Apocalypse Now with some pretty spectacular shots, especially involving Kong and a memorable set piece with some helicopters, the monsters also look great generally – including Kong and you really get a sense of the scale and ferocity of them – especially Kong when you see him to scale, a creature of truly monstrous size. The action sequences in general are quite brutal, chaotic and clearly reference the weapons of war use at the time period while not necessarily making any point about them, presenting them for what they are, meanwhile the monster on monster action is also brutal, shot well enough to show you all that’s going on and pretty epic in scale.  The overall result is a fun, albeit shallow action thriller but a fun one nonetheless, that doesn’t take itself too seriously, I’m looking at you Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla, action films these days overdo things and just forget to have fun with themselves and thankfully, Skull Island isn’t one of them, a fairly creative idea that for  sure it has its faults but on the whole is a pretty good ride.

7/10

. Great action sequences, creatively executed with creatures/humans

. Fantastic visuals, evoking the feeling of South-east Asia/Vietnam in the early 70s

. Characters are bit cliché, plot is predictable

Moana review

Moana is an animated Disney film directed by Rom Clemetns and Don Hall centred around an indigenous tribe of people who lived on the island of motonui’i in ancient Polynesia in the pacific, specifically we follow the young Moana, daughter of the chieftain who is being raised to take over the tribe. Though her natural curiosity leads her on a journey off the island, on a dangerous mission that was tasked for her to complete with the help of the shape shifting God Maui. The film stars Dwayne Johnson, Auli’li Cravlho, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison and Nichole Scherzinger.

Family, identity, your place in the world…. all of these are central themes often dealt with in Disney films to varying degrees and Moana is no exception, part coming of age story, it’s also a very identity focused story as Moana tries to find her place in the world along with her tribes, not being satisfied with the status quo and wanting to dig deeper, a trope often found with young protagonist in Disneys animated films. There’s a nice, jovial feel to the film as a whole, with some well done animation and good visuals, the visual style reminded me of Lilo and Stitch while the content and plot reminded me of The Little Mermaid (as well as the singing) – another sea faring story, so I think Moana sits somewhere in the middle.

That being said, the film also feels pretty different, with the story being set around a seafaring indigenous tribe for one and with there being no real romantic side to the story, which was interesting and actually a breath of fresh air (not that every animated Disney film has one), the plot conforms to Disneys tropes in a lot of ways but it’s also it’s own unique story. And we see this through the mythos and culture of Moanas tribe, which made for some interesting backstory for some of the characters and interesting world building, told very simply, it’s exposition done right, without necessarily beating you over the head with it, easy for kids to follow and straightforward for adults. The characters are a big driving force for the plot of course, Moana is spirited, independent and driven to see what’s out in the world, leading to conflict with her father, which feels all too real and disagreeing with your parents on your direction in life is something I’m sure we can probably all relate to, meanwhile Maui – enthusiastically voiced by Dwayne Johnson makes for a great wild card character.

Maui’s huge, full of energy, wisecracking and an animated embodiment of Dwayne Johnson if you will – but he’s interesting, has three dimensions to him and brings an interesting magical, fantastical element to the story, playing off Moana quite humorously in points. And of course the singing, while I’m not a fan of musical numbers/musicals in general, they provided nice segues between plot points I felt and they were used in important portions for the plot and characters, namely Moana. And in terms of the songs themselves, they’re a nice aspect of the overall film.

The plot is more or less what you came in expecting, a seafaring adventure with humour and Moana going on her own personal journey, growing and changing, like some of the other characters importantly do, showing character development and proper arcs for them, with the emotional core of the story, Moana wanting something different to what her father wants for her, some tropes are familiar but the relatable aspects are still there and along with some strong characters, help to make an engaging and fun story.

7/10

. Well done musical numbers, maybe not for everyone

. Has some well done voice acting

. Simple to follow plot, engaging, humorous in parts

. Story may feel a bit by the numbers

Assassins Creed review

Assassin’s Creed is a fantasy action film directed by Justin Kurzel, based on the video game series that started in 2007 of the same, following convicted felon Callum Lynch, who is sentenced to death but seemingly brought back by the mysterious organization calle Abstergo, who use a machine called the Animus to access the memories of his ancestor Aguilar for their own means, meanwhile Callum discovers he’s a descendant of an order of assassins. The film stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson.

So belie it or not, this was one of my most anticipated films of 2016/17 depending on where you live and when it came out but I was really looking forward to it, the Assassin’s Creed games (or the main central idea behind them) are something I’ve thought would make good films for a few years now, due to their inherently interesting premise and action elements, sci-fi, time travel, secret conspiracy…. it’s far fetched but there’s definitely an audience for this genre.

And make a film of it, they have, based on the general idea of the games of a person in the present day being used as a conduit to essentially relive their long dead ancestors memories and if you’re still with the idea to this point, you may be inclined to like the film and that’s fair enough, visually it’s a striking, great looking film with nice vistas and an interesting, albeit shortly lived representation of the Spanish inquisition, the setting for the life of Aguilar, Callums’ ancestor. The cast is decent also, Fassbender makes a pretty good main character and I believe him in the assassin role and Jeremy Irons makes an imposing, antagonist presence however, Irons isn’t given too much to do, with Cotillard and Fassbender taking the reins. The main flaw of the film is that it ironically stays a bit too faithful to the series in my opinion, not expanding on its own story in any meaningful way and giving next to no back story or context for certain events and characters.

A big problem with trying to fit a games story into a film is the difference in the mediums, a games story is sprawling, often told over dozens, if not hundreds of hours of main story and trying to fit that into 90 – 100 minutes of runtime, not so easy, I feel that some of the ideas in the plot may have just been a bit too jarring for audiences e.g. the Apple of Eden, something fans of the series like myself are familiar with but with no explanation, will have people new to the series scratching their heads. Ironically, we actually needed more exposition, both for Abstergo, the Templars and the assassins, more set up and world building is essential for a first foray into a world like this, to really give people an idea of what the story is and disappointingly, we didn’t get quite enough time in the actual past, with action being inter cut between past and present day.

Which was a different take on the games ideas of experiencing pat memories but ultimately this made the action choppy and un-necessarily so, that being said, the action in the past is quite well done, with some well choreographed sequences which emphasize the assassins fighting prowess and ability, though 100 minutes of nice action doesn’t make a great story. The plot itself is also surprisingly dull, something pretty much none of the games are (bar the slog of Assassin’s Creed III), without any of the dynamic characters, moral decisions and exciting incidents that happen in the games, we get a stripped film version that scrapes the barrel, not quite delving into the intriguing mythos of the story at all, which is a shame.

6/10

. Not enough context or world building for the story

. Present day story feels rushed, poorly developed

. Cast is decent, Fassbender puts in decent effort