June film preview

We’re officially in the summer film season and almost in summer itself, with a few of the years biggest blockbusters already out in wide release but there are a few big films to come over the next 30 days as is usually the case for June, so here are a few to look out for.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows  – released on the 3rd of June

Directed by – Dave Green

Starring: Megan Fox, Stephen Amell, Will Arnett, William Fichtner, Tyler Perry

The TMNT film that no one really wanted but everyone seems to be like “Eh I might check it out” over is out in early June, following the famous turtle brothers as they come into conflict with mad scientist Baxter Stockman who mutates people into dangerous foes, while they face off an alien invasion with their human friends April O’Neil, Vern and the newly introduced Casey Jones.

 

The Conjuring 2 – released on the 10th of June

Directed by – James Wan

Starring: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Franka Potente, Lauren Esposito.

James Wan directs the sequel to the terrifying The Conjuring, following paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren now investigating a new case of poltergeist activity affecting a young girl in Enfield, London which was also documented in real life.

 

Now You See Me 2 – released on the 10th of June

Directed by – John M Chu

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman.

Sequel to the mind bending drama Now You See Me and set 3 years later, the gang of professional con artists/magicians headed by Jesse Eisenbergs Danny Atlas takes their act around the world, taking things to a higher level as they hope to expose a tech leaders unethnical practices.

 

Warcraft – released on the 10th of June (already out in the UK)

Directed by – Duncan Jones

Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Robert Kazinsky.

Duncan Jones directs this fantasy adventure epic based on a popular online game of the same name as the world of Orcs is dying and certain types of Orcs seek the help of humans in order to save their world while others seek to invade and take over the lush lands of Azeroth, home to the humans.

 

Central Intelligence – released on the 17th of June

Directed by – Rawson Marshall Thurber

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Amy Ryan, Aaron Paul, Jason Bateman, Megan Park.

Buddy cop comedy with two friends who went to the same high school who are now drastically different in their adult lives with Johnson the former geek who is now a skilled CIA agent and Hart the former school popular kid who’s now an accountant, the two get mixed up into a dangerous mission and comedy capers ensue.

 

Finding Dory – released on the 17th of June

Directed by – Andrew Stanton

Starring: Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy.

Spin off come sequel to Finding NemoFinding Dory follows the titular Dory this time around as we explore her background as she endeavours to try and find her family.

 

Independence Day: Resurgence – released on the 24th of June 2016

Directed by –  Roland Emmerich

Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Liam Hemsworth, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A Fox, Maika Monroe, William Fichtner, Sela Ward.

Sequel to the 90s disaster flick Independence Day and set 20 years after, mankind has co-opted and uses alien technology now for its own benefits but once again has to face off against an alien invading force and again unite to defend Earth… and it all happens on the 4th of July (I guess), ‘Merica.

Ranking the X-Men franchise

So yeah I made this post a few months ago but I can now up date it with the recent X-Men Apocalypse and the presumed conclusion of Bryan Singers’ new X-Men trilogy and while my scores may not have changed at all since the last post, the list will be different now with Apocalypse so here goes.

 

X-Men First Class – 8/10

Although level on an 8/10 rating, First Class is my joint favourite film in the franchise alongside X2. First Class is the franchises re-boot point in essence and it works well in bringing the X-Men to the past, while still presenting a compelling story, seeing Xavier and Eriks developing relationship come rivalry is great, as is seeing the foundations of the X-Men we’ve come to know and love. First Class brought the rejuvenation that the franchise badly needed, set in the swinging 60s at the height of the cuban missile crisis with tensions high and humans fearful of mutants (as ever). The film isn’t full of but has some great action and set pieces which are made better with the match ups of different mutants and different abilities.

And I loved seeing mutants not seen on the big screen before like Havok, Azazel and Banshee, expanding the mutant film roster as it were and not solely focusing on the traditional X-Men roster. And importantly we got to see Magneto and played fantastically by James Mcavoy, Michael Fassbender, seeing their friendship and tragic but inevitable separation, meanwhile Kevin Bacon makes a surprisingly good villain as Sebastian Shaw.

 

X2 – 8/10

What can I say, X2 is the pinnacle of great action with some of the most memorable and iconic in the X-Men franchise with some great drama, humour and of course thrilling set pieces with Wolverine at his best. Full of great characters and a very good story with some pretty tense scenes, that work well because of the plots execution and the way it effortlessly moves from scene to scene, definitely flying by. It’s great seeing classic X-Men together and fighting for the same goal and the cast is really on their A-game, Stryker is an awesome villain for the plot and poses a threat to mutants as a whole, bringing Magneto and his ideals together with the X-Men which makes for an interesting dynamic. X2 flourishes with a plethora of mutants in the story who all feel unique and get a decent amount of screentime, showcasing their own unique abilities, a great balancing act and a great film.

X-Men Days Of Future Past – 8/10

Days Of Future Past represents the franchises’ ambition in going to very different places and settings with different X-Men stories and it definitely payed off, the feel of the film was that of classic X-Men with the team battling seemingly impossible odds and using creative methods to do so, with time travel in this case. Seeing a continuation of past Xavier and Eriks’ stories and relationship was great, as was seeing a plethora of X-men mutants in the future, Days Of Future Past brought together things fans had wanted to see and it was a fairly faithful adaptation of the comic story, being an engaging story with some great set pieces and some well emotional points. Mystique almost steals the show as one of the big players this time around and again the cast is on their A game.

 

X-Men Apocalypse – 7/10

The latest film in the X-Men seems to not be so hot as far as critics go but I actually enjoy it to a fair degree, it’s larger than life, the stakes haven’t been higher and Apocalypse is genuinely menacing albeit without doing too much, there’s a host of mutants here with old veterans mixed in with new, younger re-cast characters who all fit in their roles really well. Xavier and Magnetos’ relationship is again a feature here but not necessarily centre stage, taking a back stage to Apocalypse and his plans and how he goes about things makes for some grand set pieces, cool action sequences and while the plot isn’t particularly deep, it’s still a fun adventure with well worked humour, great interaction among the new look X-Men and a promising future for the franchise if it’s to continue.

 

X-Men – 7/10

X-Men is a pretty good film, often overlooked when people think about the trilogy, it’s a great starting point for everything and has some great set pieces, great dialogue and is a very well put together film, it does some great world building and sets up things to come establishing the mutants we know and love with a deft touch. It’s a great starting off point for the franchise and it has the contained feeling of a classic X-Men story with Xavier Vs Magneto, the X-Men facing off against the Brotherhood of mutants executed well, with some fun set pieces and a whole lot of ambition.

Being the first live action superhero film of the modern era and following Batman and Robin in movie goers recent memory was no mean feat but X-Men went in head first and the results have more than paid off as we now see.

The Wolverine – 7/10

The Wolverine is the  second best solo mutant film to date (Deadpool) easily taking the first place but it’s a solid film, putting Logan in a different setting and a very different situation, we see different sides to the character and most importantly, see him being Wolverine at some of his best with some great action. It’s not the most memorable X-Men related film but a good watch.

X-Men The Last Stand – 6/10

The Last Stand is… disappointing, falling far short of the heighs reached by X2, the film took an awesome X-Men story in the Phoenix saga and rushed it into a final film in a trilogy alongside the cure storyline which just didn’t work. The set pieces in the film are decent though quite cheesy and there is a feeling of finality to everything but the conclusion is far from satisfying and the plot itself is stretched way too thin to satisfy fans of the series.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine – 6/10

Origins was an unfortunate film, cashing in on the desire to see more backstory to Wolverine and include more mutants in the story, the films plot simply wasn’t that interesting and had one too many cheesy lines and throwaway characters, including Will.I.Am, seriously remember how Will.I.Am is in the movie? Though to be fair it did have some decent action scenes in it and it had Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, a fun character that he’s now getting to portray properly.

30 Days Of Night review

30 Days Of Night is a horror film directed by David Slade set in an Alaskan town plunged into darkness for 30 days straight, once a year, it’s set upon by bloodthirsty and ruthless vampires, while the inhabitants try to survive the onslaught, the film stars Josh Hartnett, Ben Foster, Melissa George, Manu Bennett.

The story for 30 Days Of Night is about as straightforward as they come and similarly, the plot plays out as you’d expect with people trying to survive, though things do take some interesting turns as thing goes on, a film like this lives on its’ tension and in maintaining it and for a good portion of the film you only get glimpses of the Vampires, who are as ruthless as they come. And before they get fully shown, seeing them lurk around and stalk characters in itself is suspense ridden and works on the less is more horror trope, we know what’s behind the corner but not fully knowing where it is or everything about it makes it even more scary.

The vampires in the film are interestingly designed, looking a lot more animalistic than you may expect but all the more unnerving for it and they mean business in the film, with their own unique language even being invented for the film. 30 Days presents more traditional ruthless vampires and is pretty full of gore, as you would imagine in a movie about vampires to be fair. So as far as that goes, the film is an easy recommend for fans of more gory horror, though the film is still a well crafted horror that’s more than just gore, working well in its’ slower moments, it also has an emotional edge to it in presenting the townsfolk trying to survive, brought to the forefront by Eben (Josh Hartnett) and Stella (Melissa George).

While other characters contribute to make a set of people to mostly care about, you won’t care about everyone in the film as not everyone is that fleshed out, there are some quirky, eccentric performances in the film as well though, especially from Ben Fosters character – The Stranger – Foster as a great character actor fits into the wacky, zany role well and looks like he’s having a lot of fun with it.

The element of an interesting, developing story is very present as things go on and like the characters, you don’t know how events will play out, as the plot goes on, that feeling of the waiting game between the survivors and Vampires plays out interestingly as people desperately try to stay out of sight. 30 Days Of Night is a good horror film, quite gory and gritty, it has a bold, animalistic depiction of vampires that feels very distinct and a set of characters you will mostly care about, the performances in the film aren’t great throughout but Hartnett and George are good as the leads.

7/10

. Great design on the vampires in the film

. Plot has some tense scenes, good use of suspense

. Film falls foul to some horror clichés

X-Men Apocalypse review

Bryan Singer directs the latest entry in the X-Men franchise with X-Men Apocalypse, following the first mutant Apocalypse as he aims to bring about change in the world and gathers followers in order to do so while Mystique gathers mutants together to stop him – oh and it’s also set in the 80s. The film stars James McCavoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar Isaac, Nicholas Hoult, Evan Peters, Olivia Munn, Ben Hardy, Kodi-Smitt McPhee, Tye Sheridan, Alexandra Shipp.

As you may expect, Apocalypse is dense, packed with a lot of plot with Apocalypses’ back story, history and ideals as well as a plethora of characters and some welcome re-introduction of popular X-Men characters with some younger, fresh faced actors, namely Alexandra Shipp as Storm, Sophie Turner as Jean Grey, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops and Kodi-Smitt McPhee as Nightcrawler. And the new additions are actually pretty good, they fit well into their roles and bring in some good performances, Sophie Turner as Jean feels like a no brainer and Shipp makes a great younger Storm and so far, the new look X-Men is shaping up quite well. And Smitt-McPhee brings quite a few laughs as a young Nightcrawler, as does the returning Evan Peters as Quicksilver and for a decidedly dark, film with serious themes, there are quite a few nice moments of levity and humour and this helps to balance things out.

And with a fairly large cast, a there are some characters that notably don’t have that much to do which was a shame but probably inevitable for the sake of plot and runtime, though seeing young X-Men interact with each other and just hang out was nice albeit a bit undersold here, taking a back seat to the overall plot, seeing X-Men in the making at Xaviers’ school was great though and I’d love to see more of that in a future instalment.

In terms of acting, none of the new cast necessarily give stellar performances but that task comes down to McCavoy and Fassbender especially who gives a pretty fantastic performance, surprisingly as he’s not the main character but regardless you get to delve into his psyche a bit more and as ever, his relationship with Professor Xavier is an important factor to things. Meanwhile Oscar Isaac does a good enough job playing the larger than life Apocalypse with his booming voice and some believable line delivery, though his physique doesn’t necessarily strike you as intimidating, his demeanour and confidence does make up for that. Apocalypse may ironically be one of the best and weakest parts of the plot, being a mutant so strong that no one can go toe to toe with him which makes him menacing – but at the same time his powers almost feel muted as he’s essentially unmatched, so his horsemen take up a more active role. That being said we do have some pretty good action sequences and a spectacular set piece (as you may have heard) involving Quicksilver that’s a highlight of the film.

The plot isn’t as action packed as you may expect though and this may disappoint some, this isn’t X2 by any means in terms of action but the fights are still well choreographed and seeing mutants that we haven’t seen fight each other on screen was a nice touch. Apocalypse in general may feel a bit muted for some, it’s nothing ground breaking for an X-Men film by any means but it’s also far from terrible. The set pieces are grand and epic, the action is good but certain things are a tad cheesy and telegraphed and Apocalypse himself may just be a bit too strong to make a compelling villain, despite his arguably interesting views/beliefs.

7/10

. Good visuals, has some great set pieces

. New young X-Men are actually all pretty good, great casting

. Apocalypse may come across as a bit underwhelming

Ranking the Star Wars franchise

The Star Wars franchise is a wonderful, wonderful thing as you know and it has its legendary, masterpiece esque heights and bottom of the barrel lows but on the whole it’s a solid set of films with an expansive, imaginative and fascinating universe. A universe that has entertained millions of people for decades and now with the Force Awakens out, here’s my ranking of the now 7, soon to be 8 films released.

Star Wars: A New Hope – 10/10

A timeless classic and the film started it all, A New Hope is just about as close you can really get to a perfect sci-fi film and a perfect film in my opinion, from the fantastic, iconic and meaningful visuals and use of aesthetics in scenes to tell rather than show the audience, great pacing and a brilliant mix of humour, drama and emotion, we go on a great adventure with Luke and see him grow and develop as our hero and it’s wonderful to watch. And with some great, classic villains and a set of vibrant and fun main characters, it’s a fun ride that you don’t really want to get off of, setting up an entire universe of films, TV shows and more to come.

Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back – 9/10

Probably one of if not the best sequels of all time, The Empire Strikes Back really resonates with a lot of Star Wars fans and understandably so, being the more darker, grittier follow up and bringing that emotional punch with the Vader – Luke twist, as well as some awesome set pieces and scenes including the Vader – Luke duel on Bespin, Landos betrayal and the battle of Hoth. Empire Strikes Back manages to keep things thoroughly exciting, never dragging for a minute as it goes from strength to strength, pitting Vader in more of a focal point as the moral opposite to Luke, a fascinating dichotomy between the father and son which epitomised the themes of good vs evil. A continuation of the story and an excellent outing in the Star Wars universe that expanded on the ideas of A New Hope and brought some darker, heavy elements to the plate.

Star Wars: Episode VI Return of the Jedi – 9/10

Return, I feel, strangely gets a bit of a bad wrap despite it not being anywhere near bad, a lot of people seem to view it as the weakest prequel maybe due to the Ewoks (though that’s not enough of a reason for the film to be bad, obviously), make no mistake the film is great with having a lot to fulfill and live up to in concluding the original trilogy. The stakes are high as ever as there’s a new Death Star and Vader, Palpatine and the Empire have to be confronted for a last time. The humour and great action from the previous two OT films returns along with some well done emotional moments – Luke and Vader in the Death Star with Palpatine is a fantastic sequence and the set pieces are also great with a familiar feeling but satisfying conclusion (another Death Star!) that wraps things up nicely.

Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens – 8.5/10

It’s only the highest grossing Star Wars film of all time and one of the highest grossing films of all time. The Force Awakens is a massive box office and critical hit and deservedly so, having to live up to quite frankly, ridiculous amounts of hype, it sort of did and while it does narratively borrow from A New Hope, it’s still very well structured, entertaining and it does a great job of blending the old and the new, not getting bogged down in the 30 year gap between the film and the end of the original trilogy. And a lot of why the films works is down to the films stellar visuals, great characterization with nuanced, complex villains and heroes that straddle the lines between light and the dark. And that great cast, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley have great chemistry and flourish in their roles, as does Oscar Isaac, bringing an equally energetic and memorable performance, as does Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, new ideas are also present here and make for some interesting additions to the Star Wars lore, leaving a lot of room for fans to speculate.

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of The Sith – 7.5/10

Easily the best prequel, Revenge of The Sith brings on a decidedly darker tone to the prequels as we follow Anakins’ tragic and inevitable march to the dark side and his famous ‘evil’ alter ego, though he’s been getting there over the course of 3 films, his change in the film could be said to be a bit sudden.That aside, the visuals are great as are the action scenes on the whole, coupled with a few pretty great set pieces and as far as the prequels go, the acting is a fair bit better than in Episodes I and II.

Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace – 7/10

Contrary to many Star Wars fans, I really don’t think The Phantom Menace is anywhere near that bad even with Jar Jar, it has its lows of course but it’s probably the prequel I enjoy watching the most, Darth Maul was a great villain, although underused and some of the action sequences were well done, the acting was noticeably wooden in parts of course and the Gungans brought a distinctly childish tone to proceedings but it had its enjoyable moments as a whole.

Star Wars: Episode II Attack of The Clones – 6/10

Easily the worst prequel, Attack of The Clones did have some fun fight scenes to be fair but it was just a bit too much style over substance and with some terrible lines of dialogue and even worse delivery, parts of the film have become a bit of a punchline to underline how bad the prequels got. Yes this was a misstep but how cool are the clones….right? Ah who am I kidding, it’s a bad film.