Film Review: Spider-Man: Homecoming 

Tobey Maguire was a good Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield was a good Spider-Man. Tom Holland is the guy who nails both halves of the character.

For starters, Holland looks closer to an awkward teenager and is just wonderfully charming as he stumbles and bumbles his way through his teenage life. This charm and awkwardness transfers across when he dons the mask, the body language still capturing the gawky youth and attempts to be cool. Also the voice work captures the enthusiastic way Spidey goes into action.

This movie gets one of the things I loved about the character of Spider-Man. He enjoyed being a hero. Sure, there was drama and tension, but when he got up there swinging, he was having a ball. The same is true for large parts of this film, Spider-Man throws himself into crime fighting, even for minor offences with boundless enthusiasm. Even when things get tough there’s still a sense that he wants to be a hero, and that he likes being in the tights. It messes with his day-to-day life, but there’s no stopping him, and there’s no brooding.

There is frustration, having helped out in Civil War Peter hopes to become an Avenger and work closely with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), but finds himself sidelined. Stark tells him to stay close to the ground, and that he’s not ready.

Tony and Peter, with a flawed mentor-student relationship

Some criticised the movie for including Stark, but I like it. It makes sense that after recruiting Peter he would keep tabs on him, and Tony’s attempts to mentor him show how the character continues to evolve from the playboy at the start of the first Iron Man movie. RDJ is excellent as ever, and his affection and concern for Peter is pitched just right. There’s a sense that he respects Peter despite his youth and sees his potential to be great, evidenced when he tells Peter that he wants the young hero to be better than him.

Eager to prove himself Peter decides to go it alone aftee discovering someone is selling hi-tech weapons. This leads him against Adrian Toomes AKA the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who turned to crime having been thrown off the salvage contract after the events of The Avengers leaving him in financial difficulties. He and his crew use the alien tech they grabbed to make weapons and to steal more, leading them to cross paths with Spidey, who persists after Iron Man warns him off.

Michael Keaton’s performance and the changes to Vulture’s backstory are fantastic and make what I’ve always viewed as a lacklustre villain more interesting. Not only does his origin tie in with the rest of the MCU and show the fallout of previous events, it makes him a more relatable and believable character. All his crime is driven by his need to provide for his family, and Keaton captures a sense of a man driven to extremes to keep his head above water. Not that he isn’t great at the basic villain stuff, with him giving the character an intimidating steeliness which as the film continues to impress and increase. Not an utter villain, but with a ruthlessness that makes him a decent threat.

Keaton in great form

The plot unfolds at a cracking pace, the film fizzing along so that the action and laughs flow constantly, but with enough character stuff to mean you genuinely care, largely due to Holland’s work.

While there are some MCU similarities this film has its own tone, being closer in tone to a teen comedy at times, just with superheroics thrown in, there’s a nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and that’s kind of the vibe here. It helps that the dialogue is genuinely funny and some of Peter’s schoolmates are wonderful.

Best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is a scene stealing character, a geeky fanboy who is overjoyed at discovering his best friend is a superhero and who pesters Peter with questions. It’s a charming and funny performance, and Ned provides a lot of humour as well as providing Peter with a confidante. 

Ned and Peter, geeky buds

Also worth mentions are Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and a delightful performance from Zendaya as Michelle, Peter’s sarcastic, offbeat classmate.

The whole movie clicked for me, managing to balance peril and humour. It felt like the closest to the Spider-Man from the books and fits well with the MCU by adding a slightly smaller scale. Peter is the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, and the bigger more cosmic threats can be left to the other characters.

I was won over by Holland in his brief appearance in Civil War and this builds on this. For me this is up there with the best of the MCU movies and I hope Sony continue their deal with Marvel because this is how to do Spidey. 

Verdict: An entertaining ride from start to finish this has bags of charm and action. Simply magnificent. Holland IS the character. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Advertisements

Film Review: Captain America: Civil War

WARNING! A few spoilers ahead.

First things first, not sure this should be classed as a Captain America movie as it feels more like an Avengers thing, and MWF agrees with me on this. But as the MCU continues to grow they knock this one out of the park with an epic movie which will have lasting impact on the characters.

image

The plot deals with a rift forming between the Avengers. After Captain America (Chris Evans) leads a mission in Nigeria that results in the death of several civilians the Avengers have to deal with the question of accountability. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), struggling with guilt and the responsibility of being Iron Man, agrees to a UN charter which would see the Avengers being under stricter rules.

The deal is proposed to the team by Secretary of State Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), last seen in The Incredible Hulk. And the rift forms, with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Vision (Paul Bettany) and War Machine (Don Cheadle) agreeing to sign while Cap expresses concerns and doubts, echoed by Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Wanda Maximoff AKA the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen).

image

Tony and Steve debate.

During a signing of the accord attended by Black Widow, a bomb is detonated killing the King of Wakanda, the African nation where Vibranium is produced (what Cap’s shield and Ultron were made of). The bomb is believed to be the work of the Winter Soldier AKA Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), Cap’s old friend who was frozen and brainwashed as an assassin.

Cap and Falcon go after Bucky, to safely bring him in and work out what’s going on. But they encounter resistance from the new Wakandan king T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who is the current untry’s protector under the name Black Panther. After a fight and chase all four are arrested by local forces and War Machine.

image

The Black Panther arrives

Meanwhile, a shady figure known as Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) has been looking into the details of the Winter Soldier and arrives at the facility holding Bucky and conducts an interview as a psychologist. He then triggers Bucky and stages an escape, which sees Bucky fight Tony, Black Widow and the Panther.

Bucky reveals some of his memories of other, more volatile subjects of the Winter Soldier programme and that he was framed for the bombing. Captain America plans to investigate these and clear Bucky’s name, but expecting problems from Tony and the others, calls for back up.

Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) comes out of retirement to rescue Wanda who has been under house arrest and who defeats Vision in their escape. They also recruit Ant Man (Paul Rudd) to join them against Stark’s team, which now includes the Panther. Stark returns to the US to recruit Peter Parker (Tom Holland), a teenager who has gained superpowers and become a vigilante in New York.

After a tense stand off between Stark, Widow and Captain America the two teams fight. Cap and Bucky manage to escape but their allies are captured and War Machine is severely injured.

Following this Stark begins to wonder if there is something to Cap’s story about Bucky being framed and he follows the duo who are on Zemo’s trail. Zemo arrives at the Winter Soldier facility but what is his endgame? And can the heroes overcome their differences or are the Avengers done for?

Long synopsis, right? Thankfully the film never feels overlong or drawn out and it moves along at a great pace. It also benefits from being one of the best Marvel movies thus far and having a good sense of the characters at play and their relationships. New characters are introduced and done so in a decent manner, but the real strength is the time taken by Marvel to build the world over several films.

At the heart of the movie is the clash between Captain America and Iron Man and it’s to the film’s credit that at the beginning both sides make sense and it is a genuine debate. Neither side is judged and as a viewer you feel torn by the decision they face.

Both Evans and RDJ are now comfortable in their roles and despite their differences their characters are shown to have some affection and respect for the other. It’s important as it means the rift that follows means more and is tougher on the characters and the audience.

RDJ has really done great work as Tony Stark, developing the character immensely from the slick playboy of the first Iron Man movie and yet keeping the essence of the character intact. Tony is driven by ego, he is sarky and smug at times, but he’s grown into a more world weary figure, and one more driven by doing what is right.

image

RDJ as Tony Stark, one of the MCU's major strengths

Captain America has similarly developed, but maintains the core nobility that makes the character the leader he is. However, there are a few shades of grey thrown in. How much of Cap’s actions are down to his almost blind loyalty to Bucky, the last remaining connection to his past?

While Cap’s reservations about the accord are understandable, as the film progresses I found myself leaning more towards Team Iron Man, as Cap repeatedly makes decisions driven by his need to protect Bucky. The conclusion, where Zemo’s plan is revealed and the Tony-Steve relationship utterly fractures is a real gut punch and the aftermath is genuinely moving, but includes one revelation which upsets the Captain’s position on the moral high ground.

image

Cap and Bucky

While this clash is at the centre there’s plenty else on offer here, with the new characters being interesting. The Black Panther is a badass and Boseman gives the character liability and dignity.

Really making his mark is Tom Holland as Spider-man. He manages to perfectly capture the enthusiastic geek side of Peter Parker and his constant chatter during the major fight sequence is entertaining and in keeping with the character from the books.

image

Spidey!!!!

In returning roles Mackie, Stan, Olsen, Renner and Bettany all do their jobs well enough, and I particularly liked the quiet moments between Vision and Wanda, with the synthetic Avenger showing faltering attempts at kindness and friendship. Hopefully this will be developed in further movies.

Scarlett Johansson is strong as Black Widow, who is probably the most conflicted of the Avengers. Closer to Cap she nonetheless sees the logic in Tony’s arguments, and her loyalties are tested throughout. It’s be nice for Widow to get a solo adventure, as Johansson is consistently impressive yet too often a secondary character.

The movie succeeds because it follows the Marvel formula, but it also tests new ground- fresh characters and a more complicated narrative with the major clash being between two sets of good guys. The action sequences are well done and the variety of heroes on show means there are plenty of quality moments, and it’s a marked improvement in the repetitive robot smashing of Age of Ultron.

It manages to pack an emotional punch while retaining it’s sense of humour and the script is full of great lines and moments. The film works as a continuation of the MCU and as a stand alone and the consequences which will follow in the forthcoming adventures should make for entertaining viewing. The Marvel Universe goes from strength to strength and this is one of the best entries, a blockbuster with spectacle, great characters and genuine emotion.

Verdict: Another belter from Marvel which hinges on the solid performances of Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr, who capture the disintegrating relationship at the heart. The movie cleverly avoids choosing a side and allowing both sides decent arguments, and it has some big moments which should have long reaching consequences for the MCU. The supporting cast are great across the board and this is a hugely entertaining movie. 8.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

The first Avengers movie was such a success that you suspect afterwards Joss Whedon and Marvel might have been a bit scared, having built up their cinematic universe they delivered a grand slam which united several of their key characters for a team up and it won great reviews and took a bunch of cash. The movie was pretty much a flawless blockbuster which managed to include crowd pleasing action sequences with some great dialogue and characterization.

They’d raised the bar so high that a sequel was always going to be even more challenging.

avengers ultron pos

The bad news is that Age of Ultron isn’t as good as Earth’s mightiest heroes’ first outing, it’s still a hugely entertaining superhero flick, in fact, leaving the cinema MWG asked me what I intended to score it today and agreed with me on it being worth a “solid eight”.

But the script doesn’t have the same zing and some of the plot is a little convoluted. But these flaws aside it still manages to deliver action, laughs and jaw dropping spectacle while also succeeding in moving the Marvel cinematic universe onto it’s third stage.

The movie kicks off in some style with the Avengers in action against Hydra forces. It transpires that they’ve been chasing and dismantling Captain America’s (Chris Evans) old foes and are trying to reclaim the mind controlling sceptre previously wielded by Loki, brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the God of Thunder. During the mission the whole team represents, including a fantastic shot which seems like a comic book splash page come alive.

avengers ultron charge

During the attack two new superpowered enemies enter the fray, Hydra operatives referred to as “the Twins” Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, respectively). Pietro is gifted with extreme speed while Wanda has telekinetic powers and also the ability to mess with people’s minds, which she puts to good effect conjuring a nightmare scenario for Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) as he sees a world at the mercy of alien invasion and his teammates dead.

The Twins

The Twins

The Twins flee as the Avengers win the day, although Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is injured. We also see that Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) have formed a bond and it is her responsibility to calm him down after missions, returning him to Bruce Banner. Their bond is also shown to go beyond this and there’s a mutual attraction between the two.

Widow calms the Hulk

Widow calms the Hulk

Back at the Avengers HQ and in possesion of the sceptre, Stark talks to Banner about using its power and the Hydra tech to create an artificial intelligence that will govern Tony’s robotic legion and protect the world from future alien threats.

Before you can say “Terrible idea”, it’s all gone a bit wrong and the artificial intelligence Ultron (voiced by James Spade) has gone rogue, identifying the Avengers themselves as a threat and escaping online. Ultron begins building an army of robots, all of which are him in essence and teams up with the Twins, who have beef with Stark after his weapons killed their family, and they set about trying to eliminate the Avengers.

The first encounter in Africa goes wrong, with Thor, Black Widow and Captain America having their brain scrambled by Wanda. Ultron escapes with the rare metal he requires to “evolve” and Iron Man has to intervene against the Hulk, who has been sent into a rage by Wanda. They square off as Iron Man initiates his Hulkbuster suit and they smash about for a bit before the Hulk is subdued.

avengers ultron hulkbuster

On the run they have to work out what Ultron’s next move is and how they can hope to stop him. They also have to deal with the issues raised by the hallucinations Wanda gave them and also rebuild the trust which has been shattered by Stark’s secretive movements in creating Ultron.

Meanwhile, Ultron himself creates an android form, using the gem from the sceptre, which will grant him greater power, although Wanda begins to question his motives. When he tries to link with the android form she sees his true plan and the twins flee.

The Avengers head to South Korea get the android body, but Black Widow is taken prisoner. Returning to New York, Tony wants to implant Jarvis (voiced by Paul Bettany), his computer butler/assistant into the android to give them an extra weapon against Ultron, although Captain America opposes this and tensions flare.

Can the Avengers overcome their differences and stop Ultron? What is his plan? With the android in their possesion are they right to create another AI to attempt to stop Ultron, or is this a bad idea? What role will the twins play in the final showdown?

As you can tell the story jumps around the place quite a lot and there’s a fair amount going on. For the most part it’s easy to follow, but there are a few times when I had to take a beat to remind myself of what was going on and where. That being said, it is engaging once you remember where you are and the film has many strengths, most notably the cast.

Everyone seems more comfortable in their roles and it’s nice that the film takes the time to expand on certain things, and the relationship between Banner and Natasha is handled wonderfully and quite touching. Johansson does a great job of making the Black Widow believable and real, meaning that we understand why Banner appeals to her and their similarities, both haunted by their past and fearful of putting others in danger. Ruffalo is, as ever, extremely likable as the awkward, geeky Banner, haunted by having to unleash the beast within, even when it’s in a good cause and a scene where the human Banner threatens Wanda feels totally in keeping with the character. His rage at Wanda for causing his rampage reflecting his issues with the Hulk being used by others.

Best of all, for me, was the fact that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye has a lot more to do this time around. Aware of his limitations compared to his superpowered teammates, Hawkeye’s background is fleshed out and we see his driving force- professionalism. He’s there to do a job, and he’s dedicated to it, almost fearless when confronted with danger and, barring Black Widow, the most vulnerable, he nevertheless joins the charge. It’s nice that they’ve expanded on the character, although I still doubt we’re going to get a Hawkeye movie, or even a Hawkeye/Black Widow movie.

Hawkeye in action

Hawkeye in action

Evans, Hemsworth and RDJ are all on top form, particularly RDJ, who continues to make Stark the most engaging character. The superficial suave air from the first Iron Man movie has been stripped away, and we see more of the man inside the suit, scared and worried for the future, even if he does still hide behind the quips (needless to say, he gets many of the best lines in the movie).

As for the newcomers, they do pretty well. The twins are pretty cool in the power stakes, and it’s a credit to Olsen and AT-J that they convince as being close, loving siblings. ATJ, after boring me senseless in Godzilla, is back on fine form here, conveying both sides of Pietro’s personality- the angry, vengeance seeking young man and also the big kid who revels and enjoys his powers.

Olsen is wonderfully cold as Wanda, single minded in her quest for revenge and remorseless in messing with the minds of others, although she does show flashes of decency and even at the start she and her brother believe themselves to be the good guys against the imperialist Americans.

Doing a wonderful job at the mic for Ultron, James Spade is a delight. The product of Tony Stark he has much the same sarky manner as his creator, and an even less secure grip on his ego. One of the things the movie does is have clear similarities between the two, they deliver the same quotes and make the same jokes. It’s all rather well done and Ultron is quite a menacing presence, especially given his unpredictability and rages.

Ultron

Ultron

The one downside with Ultron as a villain is that he’s made an army of Ultrons, meaning that some of the fight scenes, particularly with Iron Man, are a bit confusing and it almost tips into Transformers territory of metal hitting metal with no idea what’s what. The other problem is that despite their numerical advantage we see far too many Ultrons go down easily- if Thor or the Hulk smashes one, we’re impressed, but if they can also be taken down by a single arrow or shield throw they’re not massively intimidating.

It would help if the Ultron Prime was even more impressive, stronger and evolved than his minions, but the difference isn’t great enough and so his threat isn’t quite as pronounced. Still, his plan is fabulously OTT and the fight scenes do succeed in capturing that comic book feel, where everything is going on at once. Rather than cutting from one throwdown to another Whedon uses camera moves and flying debris to weave between the battle, picking out individual moments in the melee.

All in all, Whedon succeeds in making a sensational blockbuster and superhero movie, and the MCU continues to grow and impress (the final Avengers line-up looks pretty boss, and it’s nice to see some of the smaller characters get screen time). It doesn’t match the first, but that was always unlikely, but it’s still a solid movie and puts more pressure on DC’s Justice League reveal.

Verdict: Not as solid as the first, but still hugely entertaining and fun. The film expands on it’s characters and as with previous Marvel flicks leaves you eager for more. Roll on phase three! 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Movie Review: Iron Man 3

It seems only fitting that the first hero out of the blocks following Avengers Assemble should be the one who kicked off the cinematic Marvel universe, Iron Man. Some of the old faces return along with some new ones and there’s a new man behind the camera in Shane Black, best known for his work as a screenwriter, takes the reins from Jon Favreau.

ir3pos

The movie picks up Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) some time after the events of the Avengers movie, with the billionaire superhero carrying psychological scars from his near death experience which manifests in panic attacks and an obsessive devotion to developing increasingly advanced Iron Man suits.

This leaves our hero emotionally frazzled and sleep deprived, and is putting strain on his relationship with live-in girlfriend Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow). His friend, James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) seems aware of Tony’s problems and tries to help, but is also kept busy as his own alter-ego War Machine, now revamped as Iron Patriot.

The Iron Patriot

The Iron Patriot

Meanwhile, a terrorist known as the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) has taken responsibility for a series of bombings and hacks into television feeds with his own videos where he delivers warnings of further bombings.

One of the Mandarin’s attacks hits close to home when Tony’s friend and former bodyguard Happy (Jon Favreau) is badly injured, and goaded by press questions Tony delivers a televised threat to the Mandarin, which leads to an attack on his home. His latest Iron Man suit, a malfunctioning prototype enables him to survive but crashes miles from home near the location of an explosion Tony suspects is linked to the Mandarin.

Stranded and alone, can Tony overcome his demons and work his way back to Pepper? Without is suit can he still be a hero and work out what the Mandarin’s agenda is and how it ties in with two old acquaintances- Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall), a brilliant scientist who Tony had a fling with and who has developed a revolutionary medical process and Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), who previously worked and pursued Pepper, and who Tony snubbed, who now seems to have found success and still seems interested in Pepper.

First of all, I have to say I was impressed with this flick. While I’m a big fan of Black’s previous work and was looking forward to this one,  a change of director can unsettle a franchise, and while Iron Man 2 was fun, it wasn’t anywhere near as good as the first movie, here however, the series really recaptures it’s form and Black creates a brilliant superhero movie.

As with the previous installments the movie’s major strength is it’s leading man, with Robert Downey Jr remaining effortlessly cool and charismatic as Stark, delivering a funny, engaging performance. That’s not to say it’s all glib one liners, in this installment Tony has to face up to his own demons and fears, and RDJ should be applauded for handling this just as well as the swaggering and quipping. He captures the frazzled, burnt out and insecure Tony in the early stages, and then the increasing focus and grit the hero has to adopt as the film progresses.

The film’s script is a delight, with a lot of nice touches and one little twist in particular that I really dug but won’t reveal here. It’s filled with funny one-liners and bickering dialogue, and also features a wonderful opening narration from Stark which reminded me of Black’s directorial debut, which also starred RDJ, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, but if you’ve seen that movie you’ll know it’s not a bad thing to be reminded of.

RDJ is ably supported by a great supporting cast. I’ve really enjoyed Paltrow’s work as Stark’s love interest, as she’s quite smart mouthed herself and holds her own opposite RDJ. Here their relationship feels quite real, with Tony’s obsession causing problems and her feeling ignored and powerless to help him with his demons.

Enter Guy Pearce, who plays the geek turned smoothie with aplomb and tries to charm her away. Pearce is brilliant, all slick swagger while hinting at a darker underbelly and he seems to be enjoying himself as his character gets to reveal more of himself.

Paltrow and Pearce

Paltrow and Pearce

Don Cheadle is again rather underused as Rhodes, but he and RDJ have good chemistry as buddies and he carries himself with genuine toughness and integrity. Jon Favreau has a little more to do here after relinquishing directing duties and is amusing as Tony’s overly thorough as the new head of technology.

The best is Ben Kingsley’s work as the Mandarin, he’s largely kept in the background for much of the film and mainly appears in these wonderfully done video broadcasts, which play like dark, twisted WWE promos and he delivers them with real gravitas and a pervading sense of menace.

Kingsley as the Mandarin- Wonderfully done.

Kingsley as the Mandarin- Wonderfully done.

But this is a superhero movie and a major part of that is action sequences and spectacle and it delivers this in spades. There are some well done and impressive super-powered villains along the way and we also get to see lots of different Iron Man suits in action, which is pretty awesome. The fight sequences are over the top and characters get thrown around all over the shop, but it fits with the hyperbolic genre and they’re consistently entertaining.

What I also dug about this film was that it never goes into cheesiness or moping. Even when haunted by his demons Tony’s still charming and funny, and while the scenes where Tony befriends a young boy are sweet and endearing, there’s still enough bite in the character and the script to stop it getting too saccharine.

It’s a well made super hero movie and tons of fun, gets the series back on track and means that I’m extra excited for the further Marvel movies. There’s a sense of the series coming to a natural stopping point, which is a shame as I still think the character of Tony Stark can do more on screen. I’ve heard mention in interviews of continuing without RDJ in the title role, but personally I think you’d have to be an idiot to try and top his performance, I can’t think of anyone who would even come close.

ir3rdj

Verdict: RDJ continues his stellar work as Tony Stark in a big scale, hugely entertaining blockbuster. It might not quite match the first, but it’s a pretty damn impressive movie and Shane Black keeps it moving nicely. The supporting cast all do their jobs, and it adds more depth to our armoured hero. The Marvel movie universe continues to impress. 8.5/10

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO


The Man Crush List Part 1

Okay, so I’ve mentioned my man crushes in several previous my various man-crushes and I thought I’d list a few, and explain why.

For those unfamiliar with the term a man crush is a largely heterosexual infatuation with another dude, I think they’ve been around for years but guys in the 60s/70s/80s might not have been comfortable using the word “crush” in relation to their musical, screen or sporting heroes. However, its 2012 and I think we’re all evolved enough to admit we have some attraction for our gender, Fearne Cotton described Lana Del Ray as her “girl crush” so I think it goes both ways, so to speak.

Ryan Reynolds

I shouldn’t like Ryan Reynolds.

The bloke is almost irritatingly good looking and built his career on playing slightly smug, loudmouthed characters. Also factor in the string of incredibly hot women he’s dated (Alanis Morissette, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively) and he should be insufferable, however, the dude’s got bags of charisma and been in a ton of movies I’ve really dug (Blade Trinity, Buried, Van Wilder, Smokin’ Aces, Definitely Maybe, The Amityville Horror). Dude also seems to be genuinely funny and charming in his interviews.

Man crush moment: After being the comic relief who irritates Wesley Snipes for much of Blade Trinity he’s captured by the vampires at which point he shows he’s extremely ripped, fights Triple H and keeps the quips coming- “I can tell you two things. One, your hairdo is ridiculous. Two, I ate a lot of garlic, and I just farted. Silent but deadly.”

Dean Winchester

The cooler of the Winchester brothers from the show Supernatural, Dean (played by Jensen Ackles) is a total legend. Drives a badass car, loves classic rock, cracks wise, chases women all the time and kills demons. Need I go on?

MCM: First episode onwards.

Tom Hardy

Guy’s a phenomenal actor and has this very British charm, has made a string of quality flicks (I enjoyed Rocknrolla, Bronson, Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises) and been the best thing in some of them.

He mixes physical power with unbelievable suaveness.

Suave in Inception

Also, if a genie was handing out wishes I’d like to be as ripped as he was in Warrior.

MCM: “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling”- As Eames in Inception Hardy holds his own in a fantastic cast and instantly becomes a firm favourite to be the next Bond.

Robert Downey Jr

Dude is seriously smooth, both on screen and off, and his Tony Stark is casting perfection. Also, has this roguish, old school charm.

MCM: The Iron Man trailer.

Jason Statham

The current king of action cinema, he makes ridiculously entertaining flicks (too many to list) and also through deadpan, minimalist performances is charismatic as hell. Would love to see him do some comedy work again, as he has a real knack for it. Just a total legend.

MCM: The Kit Kat ads? Lock, Stock…?, who knows when it started but its kept going since.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Superheroes and Titillation: Breast cancer awareness

Okay, its the customary apology/ass covering time. I realize that breast cancer and cancer in general is a sensitive subject and I don’t intend to cause any upset or offence with what I’ve written and I apologize if any is caused.

I’ve been wanting to right about breast cancer awareness for a while now, because I saw something a few weeks back that I thought was worthy of mentioning, however, other stuff has distracted me and it was only when another breast cancer story came along that I decided I’d actually sit down to write this.

Here’s the thing, I get that breast cancer is a terrible disease to get. I can only imagine the severe distress being diagnosed with it must bring and the trials of the treatment which will follow. I appreciate that for many women its a condition that is awkward or embarrassing to discuss, and that there can often be an urge to bury their head in the sand, in a “what I don’t know can’t hurt me” kind of way.

Firstly, let me just say don’t do this, ladies. I get that no one wants to have their bits prodded by a stranger, but if it was me, I’d want to know, I think the constant doubts and worries would mess with my head a whole lot more than the actual condition in some ways. I know that it must be embarrassing to have to show your breasts to someone you don’t know well (believe me, I keep my mannaries under wraps as much as possible) but these are medical professionals, and their first priority and thought will be about your health and not “what a cracking pair!”

I also understand that there must be a great fear in women of the possible consequences and a concern about losing something which is so intrinsically linked to femininity, in the same way that I think all men fear that losing a testicle will somehow make them less of a man. It won’t. Liking Twilight definitely does though.

And this brings me to my dilemma regarding breast cancer awareness.

Of course I can see the benefits to it and am a massive supporter of it, because, as the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. Women, and men, but more on that later, should know what to look out for and that at the same time further knowledge of the condition might lead to a reduction in embarrassment in seeking treatment. It’ll never go away completely because of the way breasts have been sexualised in our society, but hopefully it can be lessened and help more women receive treatment sooner.

And just for good measure, here’s a guide of how to check yourself out:

However, I can’t help feeling that in the awareness stakes breast cancer is pretty well known compared to other forms of the disease. I realize it effects large numbers of women every year, but perhaps the focus should be spread out more towards the other forms too.

For example, when I was at uni they had breast cancer nights, where you got a pound of entry if you wore an item of pink clothing and money was raised for breast cancer charities. It was a good idea, and one of several charities that benefited from my drinking. However, as far as I can remember breast cancer was the only cancer that regularly had its own nights.

I also remember that they put cherry Lambrini on offer for one of them because it was pink and it proved that nobody can drink that stuff in a masculine fashion. I also drunkenly discussed the self examination with a female friend and offered, in probably a sleazier way than I care to remember, to assist her in checking if she was okay.

They put the sentiment on a T-shirt, which walks the fine line between funny and sleazy.

But that’s just me.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to write originally was because while reading a comic the other week I stumbled across Marvel’s full page advert to raise awareness of male breast cancer. The story features two of Earth’s mightiest heroes, Captain America and Iron Man discussing the fact that Tony Stark has been distracted due to his concerns regarding his recent tests for breast cancer. Its a fairly basic one page ad but I think Marvel should be applauded for their efforts in raising awareness of the fact it occurs in men.

Being a guy who gets cancer must be quite tough, as it is something usually connected with women (of the 50,000 people diagnosed every year in the UK less than 400 are men, although you have to wonder how many guys don’t even bother checking themselves) and there’s still a high level of ignorance regarding male breast cancer, I mean, if Tony Stark doesn’t know about your average Joe probably doesn’t either.

As a man who has quite an impressive set of mannaries I can appreciate that you don’t want to draw any more attention to them and that they do make you feel a bit less manly. But that’s just me and my insecurities. I think people need to realize that breast cancer is nothing to do with gender and just a form of cancer that develops in the tissues that make up male and female chests. The thing is, in a way, while the term “breast” is anatomically correct it does bring with it connotations of women.

Marvel’s stance on breast cancer extends to female sufferers too, and they joined with DC in launching a campaign that encouraged self checking and featured four characters performing self checks, including She Hulk:

She Hulk was joined by Storm, Wonder Woman and Catwoman.

Now, I appreciate that breast cancer is unrelated to breast size, but surely if you’re going to use superheroines you’d, ahem, break out the big guns and go with Power Girl?

I don’t think I’ve legitimately had a reason to type “Power Girl boobs” into Google before

Anyway, I don’t mean to trivialize the issue although that is what a breast cancer ad campaign in Chile is being accused of doing. Its recent video, “Por Amos a las Tetas” (roughly translated as “for the love of boobs”) has come under fire, here’s the vid:

Some people have said that the video is sexist and pointless and despite its message to men of “if we like them so much we should take care of them” its been dismissed by many, saying that while men might, um, “enjoy” the video they’re unlikely to give any further thought to breast cancer. Which might be a fair point but at the same time, the video has got people talking about it and might work on some men as it might make them raise the issue with their partner.

So, while its an odd tactic to use I think its different and it has already raised awareness. And no, I’m not just supporting it because I quite liked watching it.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Top 10 Best Comic Characters to Screen Transfers

Following yesterday’s post here’s the other side of the coin, which I’m writing on Wednesday evening. Again, they’re in no real order.

1. Iron Man

As seen in: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk and Avengers Assemble (2008-12)
Played by: Robert Downey Jr

I know I said I wasn’t doing these in order, but I’m kicking off with my personal favourite. RDJ is Tony Stark, he perfectly captures Tony Stark’s swaggering bravado, as well as conveying the conscious that drives him to become a hero. Its an effortlessly cool performance and RDJ drips charisma, and almost steals the Avengers movie too. I’m eagerly awaiting seeing more of RDJ’s Stark in Iron Man 3 and the Avengers sequels.

RDJ as Tony Stark- effortlessly cool,

2. Magneto

As seen in: X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men: First Class (2000-11)
Played by: Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender

Two great actors give great performances as the X-Men’s major nemesis. McKellen plays the older Magneto, zealously pursuing his plans to place mutants on top, the anger and bitterness he carries from his experiences in the concentration camp the driving force as he refuses to be oppressed again, yet his actions force him down a dark path, and its implied he’s not entirely comfortable with what he may be becoming. He’s a charismatic leader, oddly charming with an eye for recruiting alienated mutants for his team.

McKellen and Fassbender as the master of magnetism.

As the younger Magneto in the prequel Michael Fassbender steals the show, his Eric is all tightly wound rage as he doles out vengeance on the Nazis who robbed him of his childhood and experimented on him. He’s given a chance of redemption through his friendship with Charles Xavier, but believing that humans will never accept mutants they go their separate ways.

Both actors convey the intense anger that burns within the character and their motivations and methods, while extreme always seem in keeping with the character and they never completely lose the audience’s sympathy.

3. Superman

As seen in: Superman, Superman 2, Superman 3 and Superman 4: The Quest for Peace (1978-87)
Played by: Christopher Reeve

Reeve is the definitive Superman, utterly iconic in the role. He captures the Man of Steel’s simple, noble heroism and does a fantastic dual performance playing the bumbling awkward Clark Kent so effectively that despite the weak disguise you wouldn’t instantly connect the two.

The late, great Christopher Reeve. The best Superman.

4. The Joker

As seen in: The Dark Knight (2008)
Played by: Heath Ledger

Proof that you can tweak a character without ruining them. The comic book version of the clown prince of crime is one of the best villains in comics, but wouldn’t work in the more realistic world of Nolan’s bat-movies, and so they give a refreshing new spin on the character. Heath Ledger is phenomenal as the utterly demented Joker, portrayed here as a deranged, highly intelligent villain who’s only motivation is a love of chaos and panic. Ledger adds some nice flourishes and a manic energy throughout. Best of all when he tells the story of how he gained the scars on his face he later tells a different version, meaning he remains shrouded in mystery and keeps the audience guessing.

5. The Punisher

As seen in: Punisher: War Zone (2008)
Played by: Ray Stevenson

I really dug this version of the Punisher, and for my money its the best cinematic version, keeping with the darkly comic, violent vision that Garth Ennis brought to the character during his run as writer on the books. Stevenson has immense physical presence and looks like he can handle himself. He’s silent for much of the film but Castle’s never been a chatterbox and its nowhere near as cheesy as some of the Thomas Jane version was.

6. Spider-man

As seen in: The Amazing Spider-man (2012)
Played by: Andrew Garfield

Garfield brings the perfect mix to Peter Parker of the awkward geekiness and the cocky, gleeful side he’s allowed to unleash when he gets powers and pulls on the suit. You can see more of why I thought it was ace in my review of the movie a while back.

7. The Comedian

As seen in: Watchmen (2009)
Played by: Jeffrey Dean Morgan

Watchmen is loaded with interesting, complicated characters, and in the movie the cast all do great work bringing them to life, but for my money its JDM who does the best job.

JDM as the Comedian

The Comedian is an odd character, he does some truly heinous acts and should be utterly reprehensible, but somehow he’s also an oddly sympathetic. Warped by his experiences and plagued by inner demons, its apparent that despite beginning as a Robin-like teenage hero the dark side was always there, and JDM perfectly conveys the bitterness and cynicism that infects the character as well as the remorse he seems to feel and the horror he feels when he uncovers the central plot shows that at some level that he’s retained what drove him to become a costumed crimefighter.

8. Nick Fury

As seen in: Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and Avengers Assemble (2008-12)
Played by: Samuel L Jackson

For me, Nick Fury will always be a grizzled Second World War vet chewing on a cigar, but the Ultimate universe reboot of the character is undeniably cool. They revamped him as a badass black guy clearly based on SLJ, so who else were they going to tag in when it came time to putting him on the big screen?

SLJ in action as the badass Nick Fury.

SLJ brings gravitas to the role and makes Fury totally badass, a good guy who’s not adverse to manipulating others to get what he needs. Despite being just a soldier he maintains authority among his super powered associates and it never phases him. He’s cool, in charge and gives a vibe that he’s not to be underestimated.

9. Batman

As seen in: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight (2005-08)
Played by: Christian Bale

Nolan’s revamping needed a strong Batman, and Bale is probably the best live action Bat (the cartoon Bat is still the best). Bale’s good playing all aspects of the character- the smooth, frivolous public persona he adopts as Bruce Wayne is perfectly realized and he makes a far more convincing playboy than say Keaton did.

Bale brings real intensity to the character, and a steely edge. He manages to convincingly show us Batman’s obsession and devotion to his cause. And when he fights Bale convinces as a proper hard case, and he has the look about him of someone who could be extremely vicious, which is a good vibe to have when you’re playing Batman, and which no previous screen-Bat has ever really nailed.

But they keep him human when we see that part of him longs to hang up the cowl and make a life with Rachel, believing that Harvey Dent can save the city. When Bruce talks to Alfred after her death its a really heartbreaking tender moment as he says they can’t tell Harvey that Rachel was going to chose Bruce, made even sadder by the fact he’s mistaken.

There’s also a sly humour to Bale’s bat, especially in his scenes with Alfred, which I like as it matches the tone of the comics, and doesn’t tip over into goofy banter and quipping.

The Dark Knight Rises will be Bale’s last outing as the caped crusader, and you gotta feel bad for whoever they tag in for the next reboot, they’ve got some big Bat-shoes to fill.

10. Captain America

As seen in: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Avengers Assemble (2012)
Played by: Chris Evans

Like with Superman, Captain America is a character who could all to easily have been extremely cheesy, a kind of outdated concept of a star-spangled, all American hero, but Evans does a good job of showing the simple decency that drives Rogers to volunteer for the super soldier program. Evans plays Cap as still being deep down the small, awkward guy and means that he retains his noble decency and seems an obvious choice to lead the Avengers. I’m interested to see what they do with Cap adjusting to the modern day in the sequels.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Movie Review: The Amazing Spider-man

Sam Raimi did a pretty good job on the first two Spider-man movies he made. Sure, there were many flaws- not enough quipping, the rubbish Green Goblin suit (seriously, you hire an actor like Willem Dafoe then give him a costume that allows him no facial expressions? Why not do a CGI-Gollum kinda thing?). And then there’s the third film, which manages to totally mess up Venom, turns Peter Parker into a whiny little em0-douche and remains one of the worst cinema experiences I’ve ever had. The only part I remember fondly is the Bruce Campbell cameo.

The ever-groovy Bruce Campbell- the only part of Spider-man 3 I enjoyed

With that movie killing off the franchise Sony decided to reboot the whole thing, and that brings us to The Amazing Spider-Man. I also think its a legal thing, Sony own the rights to the X-Men and Spidey, but only if they keep using them. If they don’t it falls back to Marvel, I think that’s how it works. Which kinda sucks as it means there won’t be any Wolverine, Spidey, Quicksilver, Beast or Scarlet Witch in the Avengers movies.

For legal reasons this line-up will never see the big screen.

Anyway, what does the new movie do differently?

Well, for a start it shows us more about Peter Parker’s parents, his dad’s a scientist working in the field of genetics and after a break in gathers his files and flees into the night with his wife, dropping off Peter with Aunt May (Sally Field) and Uncle Ben (Martin Sheen).

Peter (Andrew Garfield) grows up with him, and its the traditional Spidey deal- geeky, clever, photographer who’s picked on by Flash Thompson (Chris Zylka). Peter’s smitten with Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), and shyly flirts with her, developing a relationship with her.

Curious about his parents’ leaving and subsequent death, Peter goes to the Oscorp building to meet Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) a former colleague of his dad. Connors reveals that they were working on merging human and animal DNA to cure various illnesses, Connors hoping to also discover a way of using lizard DNA to restore limbs as he has lost an arm.

While snooping around Peter is bitten by a souped up spider and quickly gains superpowers. Initially he uses these for messing about, but becomes a masked avenger after Uncle Ben is whacked by a criminal he allowed to escape. (If anyone complains can I just ask how the hell is that a spoiler? Its part of every Spidey story, ever. It’d be like saying revealing Krypton gets blown up is a spoiler)

Meanwhile, with Peter’s help, Connors makes a break through with his research, and like all good movie scientists tries it out on himself, transforming into a giant monstrous lizard, and severely screws him up mentally.

Also, Spider-man is exposed to the public and the NYPD are after him, the task force being led by Captain Stacy (Denis Leary), Gwen’s father.

Can Spider-man prove he’s a good guy? Can he stop the Lizard? When’s Stan Lee going to turn up?

I really enjoyed this movie, I had high hopes, and thankfully, for the most part it met them.

First of all, I have to say that Andrew Garfield is wonderful as Peter/Spidey. Despite being older than me, he’s somehow entirely convincing as an awkward, nerdy teenage boy. Peter here is shown to be witty, clever and perfectly endearing, just as the character is in the comics. He captures the mix of smarts and heart that makes Peter become a hero and also does a great job conveying Peter’s conflicting emotions, I totally bought into his performance and it is possibly, after RDJ as Tony Stark, the best superhero casting ever.

Wonderful- Garfield as Peter Parker

The thing that I love most about his performance is that he totally nails the contradiction in Peter Parker. Yes, he’s shy and awkward around Gwen Stacy and a bit of a nerd, but even before the spider bite he shows some of the confidence and swagger he’ll have when he dons the suit. He intervenes to stop Flash tormenting another student, does a fairly good job charming Gwen and has a nice line in quips.

This kicks into high gear when he becomes Spider-man, I always thought that one of the things the Maguire version lacked was the fast talking, wise cracking that Spidey has in the books. Luckily here it stays in place, with Garfield’s Spider-man making gags, trash-talking criminals and conveying the fact that despite the angst in his origins, Peter enjoys being Spidey, especially in the early days. He’s a teenage boy who gets to swing through the streets and fight crime, of course he’s going to have fun with it, and I love how Garfield and the scriptwriters make that clear here.

Speaking of swinging through the streets, the effects in this movie are fantastic. Following Peter as he thwips from building to building is a joy and there are times when you feel totally into the action, also, despite the heavy use of CG there’s a kind of realism to it. Everything feels like it has some heft, it doesn’t look light or false, there’s a real texture and weight to everything. The fights are done really well, with Spidey’s twirling, flipping and swinging making them visually engaging and dynamic. They capture the same high-octane, sprawling scope of comic book fights.

The rest of the cast are pretty good too. As Gwen, Emma Stone is a delight. I can’t remember much of the character in the comics or cartoon, but she never really made an impact on me, but here Gwen is better defined. She’s shown to be intelligent, brave and compassionate. You totally understand why Peter is smitten with her and also why she’s attracted to him. Apparently Stone and Garfield are dating in real life, which explains the fantastic chemistry they have on screen. They bounce off one another very well and their flirting is done in a really light, realistic way.

Stone and Garfield- fantastic chemistry

One of the decisions I really liked in the film was having Gwen find out early on that Peter is Spidey, which is done in this really brilliant scene between the two of them and has real sweetness. I think this’ll mean they can avoid any of the comedic hiding identity stuff in the sequels which is kind of old hat now. It also sets up a really touching scene where Gwen talks about how she’s grown up worrying about her dad’s safety in his job and now has to worry about Peter as well.

As Captain Stacy Denis Leary is on fine form, he manages to convey this real no-nonsense toughness, while also hinting at being a decent bloke. He’s also exactly right for the part as he looks pretty tough and the kind of girl’s dad who’d make a teenage boy uncomfortable.

In the villain role Rhys Ifans does fairly well although for the second half of the film he is in full lizard mode. He manages to show that Connors is essentially an alright guy, but manages to show the darker side once Connors flips out. In his scenes with Peter there’s a genuine warmth to the boy and it hints that its because of Connors’ affection for Peter’s dad. It teeters close to hamminess at times, but he is playing a man-lizard who’s gone crazy, so its to be expected.

The lizard’s an odd choice for a major villain, and they beef up the character by having Connors still being in control and also giving him a definite plan, which is kind of anchored in Connors’ desire to build a better world. It kind of works having this be Peter’s first foe as its a real physical threat while not being overly evil, meaning Peter will emerge from this still enjoying being Spider-man with the darker opponents still to come.

There are other nice touches- I like how Flash Thompson isn’t portrayed as a complete douchebag, and actually has a few decent moments, as well as being a Spider-man fan himself.

Martin Sheen oozes respectability and decency as Uncle Ben, and Sally Field is as charming as ever as Aunt May, and its nice to see them step away from having May being some frail old dear, Field seems full of life and sass and I’m hoping she gets more to do in the follow ups.

There will be follow ups, and I’m eagerly awaiting them, because this one knocks it out of the park. Yes there are questions unanswered and being an origin story it treads familiar ground, but it does so with some nice new touches and a real deftness of touch. It handles the switches in tone really well, has a brilliant leading performance and is an improvement on the Raimi movie. Reboot successful.

Oh, and the Stan Lee cameo? Its totally class.

Verdict: A great superhero flick that really gets you invested in the characters and plot. Garfield seems born to play Peter Parker and they get the tone right, with Spidey retaining the enthusiasm and joy that make him such a likable character. The supporting cast do a good job and it leaves you wanting more. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO