Florida 2019: Universal Studios Top 5

A friend described Universal Studios as Walt Disney World’s poor cousin and the park definitely falls a little flat having been to WDW. The problem is that Disney do their parks brilliantly, with a real attention to detail and finesse that unfortunately their neighbours can’t quite match. That’s not to say the place is terrible, but a lot of the park feels rather dated.

The Marvel section features a lot of the big name characters, but in their ’90s incarnations, which makes it feel like it needs a revamping. Similarly, Toon Lagoon is filled with retro characters like The Phantom and Flash Gordon, which seems a bit out of touch, I love those characters, but do kids know who they are?

us marvel

The only real new part of the park is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which didn’t really appeal to me as I’m not massively fussed on the movies. And most of the Potter stuff is made up of shops, so it seems more like an extended gift shop. WoM, being a huge Potterhead, loved it.

Anyway, there were quite a few things I did like, so here’s my top 5 list:

5. The Big Pink

Okay, so number 5 is food related, and fully embracing the idea of being on holiday and not being rigid on the diet, WoM got one of the giant donuts on offer in The Simpsons section of the park. It was pretty tasty, and gave me a sugar high that powered me through the rest of the day.

us big pink

4. Nighttime Lights at Hogwarts

As I said, I’m not the biggest Potter fan, but I was impressed by the light show they have in the evening. The projected images onto the Hogwarts Castle model is visually stunning and well done. It’s a real spectacle and despite the queue for it, well worth checking out.

3. The Jurassic Park River Adventure

So, the Jurassic Park section of Universal was easily my favourite part because I love those movies, and it had some cool stuff.

us jurassic park

The centre piece of the area is this ride, which allows you to take a boat ride through the park. There are some cool dinosaur effects and some good jumps, and it climaxes with this big drop.

Now, WoM isn’t great with heights and neither of us are huge fans of big drops (probably why it’s the slower rides at Disney which are our favourites), so convincing her to go on the ride was no mean feat. Our friends, who had ridden it before, reassured us that the drop wasn’t too big, steep or fast, and after watching a couple of boats got through, she agreed to go on. I was very proud of her for doing this, as she is very good at confronting things she’s scared of and giving them ago.

Unfortunately, our friends had lied and when we reached the drop it was indeed steeper, faster and bigger than we had been lead to expect. It’s one of those things where you go up and then down quickly, so it makes your stomach go a bit funny. Afterwards I had a bit of a buzz, but as we looked down the ramp I definitely had an “oh, crap!” moment.

WoM and I agreed that having done it once, there was no need for us to do it again. Ever.

2. The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man

A very fun 3D ride where you ride in the Daily Bugle’s SCOOP vehicle and get thrown around as Spidey does battle with the Sinister Syndicate (Doctor Octopus, Electro, Hobgoblin, Scream, Hydro-Man). The vehicle you’re in doesn’t move around that much, but the 3D effects are so well done it makes you feel like you’re being thrown about the place.

The design is really well done, with a good story and a fun vibe. It also includes a tribute to and cameo from Stan Lee, which I really liked.

1. Skull Island: Reign of Kong

My favourite ride was the one inspired by the awful 2005 King Kong remake, and is another 3D ride where you board an expedition truck across Skull Island. You get to see some giant bats, oversized bugs and then the main event when Kong throws down with some dinosaurs. The effects are jaw dropping and the vertigo inducing spills are quite thrilling. I really dug this ride and enjoyed the little story it tells along the way.

It’s a damn sight more fun than the movie.

So, that was Universal Studios, which was a good day out and had some decent stuff, but it suffers in comparison to Walt Disney World. Still got the cool globe going for it though.

us globe

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Captain Marvel

I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of the character Carol Danvers. I don’t dislike her, she’s just always been one of the Marvel heroes who never really captured my imagination, so I didn’t go into this movie as hyped as I was about seeing Thor, Spidey or Captain America on the big screen.

But this is how I went into Guardians of the Galaxy too, and just like that movie this one won me over on the strength of its charm, humour and characters. Brie Larson plays the title character and does so with real likeability, her Carol is strong willed, funny and a bad ass.

captainmarvel poster

We are introduced to Carol as a soldier in the Kree forces, known as Vers and having lost most of her memories. Vers’ earliest memory is of being injured in a crash and seeing a mysterious woman killed by a Skrull agent. The Skrull being the Kree’s enemy, a race of shapeshifting aliens who have been infiltrating and disrupting life on several planets in the Kree empire.

Vers boasts superior powers, able to fire energy blasts from her hands but she is not able to fully control them and her emotions interfere with her fighting ability. Her commanding officer, Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) has attempted to train her to control these powers and leads the team that Vers is a member of. During a mission to bring in an exposed spy, Vers’ team do battle with the Skrulls and she is captured.

While held prisoner they dig in Carol’s memories, revealing images of a childhood and places she doesn’t remember. Featuring prominently is Lawson (Annette Bening) the woman from her memories, and the Skrull are intent on finding her. Carol escapes and ends up on the planet from her memories, which is Earth in 1995.

The Skrull follow her looking for Lawson, and fearing that Yon-Rogg and the team will arrive too late, Carol sets off to find her first. This means that her paths cross with Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), at this point a low level SHIELD agent. Initially sceptical, Fury is convinced when he encounters, and kills, one of the Skrull. The duo decide to work together, as Skrull infiltrators have made Fury look like a traitor.

The duo dig into Lawson’s work and discover that Carol worked with her as a pilot, and has been presumed dead on Earth for six years. Can Carol work out what happened around the accident that saw her “die”? And will she like what she finds? There appear to be secrets and different sides to stories she is unaware of and it will shake the life she has with the Kree.

I really enjoyed this movie, especially how it fits with the rest of the MCU, being set before and showing the start of Nick Fury’s associations with super powered individuals and alien life. It also includes appearances from characters who appear in later movies, like Lee Pace’s Ronan the Accuser, later seen as the big bad in Guardians. It’s interesting to see the background and the film finishes with an idea of how Ronan ends up where he does.

The ’90s setting is used pretty well, giving us an opportunity to see a world without superheroes for the first time since Iron Man, and not going too heavy on the nostalgia. There’s a ’90s heavy soundtrack and nods to Blockbuster Video and the grunge era, but it never becomes just nostalgia, and I quite liked the jokes about how bad ’90s tech was- slow loading speeds and the fact that Fury keeps in touch with his SHIELD buddies with a two way pager, which we’ve already seen in the end credits of Infinity War.

The music gives it a distinct feel to the rest of the MCU and the setting allows us to see the normally cool and collected Fury out of his element. Rendered youthful by the magic of CGI, Samuel L Jackson plays the character well, there’s the toughness underneath but previously unseen innocence, confusion and struggle. Fury is normally in charge and the most informed, but here he’s lost and trying to find his footing in a changing world.

There’s plenty of humour from this, with Fury realising how small mankind’s place in the universe is and the relationship between Carol and Fury is central to the film. Having felt like an outsider among the Kree and told to control her emotions, Fury is a large part in helping her to embrace her humanity and they spar well verbally.

captainmarvel fury carol

The plot has some nice twists and developments, and doesn’t go exactly where I expected it to, even if one revelation is a bit redundant as the audience will have twigged what really happened by then. However, the plot works and the story of Carol Danvers rediscovering who she is, shaking off the constraints that have been imposed on her and rising to make a stand is a solid arc and an engaging one.

The character she most reminded me of was Chris Evans’ Captain America, in that both are heroes before they get their powers and have to reflect and adapt as the ideals and organisations they stood for are shown to be flawed and corrupt.

It slots well into the MCU timeline, adding more background and depth to existing characters like Fury and Ronan, but more importantly introducing a powerful, and likeable new hero to the ranks. I really warmed to the character of Carol and her spirit, and Larson does well capturing the character’s vibe and journey.

The action sequences and special effects are top drawer, as is to be expected, and the visuals of the Marvel cosmic universe continue to impress. The introduction and use of the Skrulls is cool, and I like how they took a different approach to the alien race.

The final big action sequence where Carol embraces her new powers fully is really cool and a visual treat, and I liked that even in her fights they keep the sense of Carol having fun and being someone who thrives off action, adventure and adrenaline.

I can’t wait to see more of Captain Marvel in action, and the ending which shows her finally linking upwith the Avengers has pushed my excitement for Endgame to even greater heights.

Oh, and Goose the cat is awesome.

captainmarvel goose

Finally, I can’t not mention Stan Lee. This is the first MCU movie to come out since Stan the Man’s death and it starts with a brief homage during the Marvel logo, which actually moved me. His cameo appearance here where he plays himself reading a Mallrats script on a train, is given a strange emotional quality. I don’t know if he’d already filmed his cameos for Endgame and Spider-Man: Far From Home, but if this is the last proper cameo (I imagine we’ll still get little nods to Lee in future MCU movies), then it’s a really nice one to finish on.

All in all, a cracking addition to the MCU with a great heroine, a funny, action packed script and some nice touches throughout. I loved it.

Verdict: 8.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Favourite Films 2018

Thanks to WOM and I getting Limitless cards I’ve seen a lot more movies this year, the current total (on 21st of December) is 32. The majority have been at the cinema, but I’ve also watched a couple of Netflix and Sky movies, although none of these are troubling this list.

Normally the end of the year list is quite easily put together but this year I struggled a little, while the top 5 contain my runaway favourites a lot of the movies I saw fell into the 6-7 out of ten range, and that’s made it hard to fill out the rest of the top ten. But after a lot of thought, here we go with my favourite films of the year.

10. The Meg

I was sold as soon as I heard “Jason Statham vs a giant shark”. Embraced it’s silliness and was a lot of fun. Review.

9. Black Panther

Another solid entry into the MCU, and in Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger boasted a great villain, but there was so much hype before it’s release that it didn’t meet my expectations. Decent enough, but not Marvel’s best. Review here.

8. Christopher Robin

A charming and sweet story of regaining childlike joy, taking time for your family and that you work to live, not the other way around. It veers close to cheese throughout, but I’ve a lot of affection for the characters, and what can I say, I’m a soft git. Review.

chrisrobin pos

7. Mission: Impossible: Fallout

A thrill ride from start to finish, Tom Cruise is great as the super spy Ethan Hunt and the relentless action, double crosses and danger ensure this is a lot of fun, kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Review.

6. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Rebooting a long dormant series is always risky, but this one did so with invention and humour. Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan play the computer game avatars possessed by teenage players in a goofily fun action adventure. Johnson is always great, and Jack Black is better here than he has been in years. Laughed like a drain and it still charms on repeat viewings. Review here.


5. Deadpool 2

The only film on the list I saw twice in the cinema, Ryan Reynolds returns as the foul mouthed, fourth wall breaking mercenary in a profane, over the top movie that revels in it’s gore and filth. I loved it, there are plenty of big laughs along the way and the new characters introduced are fantastic, especially Josh Brolin as Cable. Not for everyone, but worked for me. Review.


4. The Greatest Showman

Historically accurate? Almost definitely not, but for the story this wants to tell it works well. Loaded with irritatingy catchy songs and a majestic lead performance from Hugh Jackman this is an old fashioned musical that delivers both musically and emotionally. The supporting cast, especially Zac Efron, are great too. Wonderful stuff. Review.

3. Avengers: Infinity War

The MCU nails it’s first major event movie, uniting characters from across it’s universe for a superhero epic that packs a massive emotional punch. Robert Downey Jr is the standout for me, but the whole cast do great work and the scale is immense. I can not wait for Endgame now. Review.

2. Coco

While the animated sequels released this year fell short of their predecessors, this original movie from Disney and Pixar won through because of a strong story and beautiful visuals. The city of the dead is glorious, and the character design bold, striking and used well. The movie’s themes of loss, remembrance and family really struck a chord with me and reduced me to tears at the end, even on a second viewing I was sniffling. An utter delight of a movie, one of the best Pixar movies in recent years and a testament to what they can do when they strike out into new territory. Review here.


1. Bohemian Rhapsody

I loved this movie. It made me laugh, it made me rock out, it made me cry, and it did each one more than once. Rami Malek delivers a towering performance as Freddie Mercury, capturing the showmanship and swagger, but also an inner vulnerability. Have events been changed for the movie? Yes, but I wasn’t expecting a documentary and the story the filmmakers tell of an individual struggling with himself and embracing his individuality resonates. Malek should get a bunch of awards for this, and it reminded me how amazing Queen were. Superb. Review here.

bohrap liveaid

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Film Review: Venom

I didn’t have high hopes going into this movie, despite being a fan of Tom Hardy and the Marvel character he was playing. The reasons for my doubts were that this movie had been mauled by the critics and the idea of making a film about Venom that is separate from Spider-Man doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, given the history of the character. Hell, his whole look is based on the wallcrawler, so how would they explain that here.

The answer is, they don’t and, frankly, it doesn’t come up as they ditch the spider on his chest and so the only real Spidey influence is the eyes.

venom pos

The film is fun, with a lot of decent action sequences and plenty of humour wrung out of the internal bickering between Hardy’s Eddie Brock and the symbiote which infects him. The bloodthirsty alien clashing with Brock’s morality is handled well, with the two slowly starting to warm to each other and eventually becoming more like one entity. It’s almost a buddy movie played out within one body, and props to Hardy for making it entertaining while also giving a sense of Brock’s panic and unease.

Plot wise the film keeps things simple, dodgy science guy Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed) is looking for ways to save mankind from the world they have bled dry and overpopulated. His idea is space, where he looks for possible new homes, and on one of his missions his team retrieve some symbiotes, alien beings that need hosts to live. Unfortunately, one gets loose and causes a crash on re-entry, possessing the sole survivor before moving on to another host and deciding to track down Drake’s Life Foundation in San Francisco.

Needing to do damage limitation on the accident Drake decides to do an interview with investigative reporter Eddie Brock. However, Brock discovers some dodgy human testing information which he only knows about because he snoops on his fiance Anne’s (Michelle Williams) computer. Anne working as a lawyer for the Life Foundation. When Brock raises this allegation at the interview it throws his life into chaos. He is fired and blacklisted, and Anne, hurt by the betrayal, dumps him.

Six months pass and Brock is struggling, but one of the scientists who works for Drake approaches him, no longer able to keep quiet on the human trials they are doing which kill the hosts. Brock investigates and discovers a homeless woman he knows as one of the test subjects, letting her out he is then attacked and the symbiote transfers to him.

Unlike other subjects, Brock and the symbiote, named Venom, bond successfully and flourish. Drake is interested in finding out more and sends goons after Brock, but the symbiote grants him new powers which help him to evade capture, although the symbiote’s fighting style is extremely vicious, which Brock is horrified by.

Can they stay out of Drake’s clutches? Will Brock be able to curtail Venom’s aggression? Or will the symbiote gain the upper hand? What is the plan of the other symbiote that is making it’s way to San Francisco? How much can Brock trust the alien within and what is it doing to his body?

Like I said at the top, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, which I think injected some much needed dark humour to proceedings and didn’t water down Venom’s darker aspects. That being said, I felt the 15 rating was a bit harsh, while it was definitely too creepy for younger audiences and there were a few swears, the violence is surprisingly bloodless and I’ve definitely seen more at this level.

Hardy is, as ever, superb in the lead role, making Brock a likeable loser type, who’s own obsession ruins him and leaves him a broken man. There’s humour in the portrayal, especially in the panicky, bewildered way Hardy plays some of the scenes and his disbelief at what’s going on.

The rest of the cast do their jobs well enough, although Ahmed’s Drake is a little bit bland as a villain. His coldness works, but there’s just something missing from taking him to that next level.

The action sequences are pretty cool and the way the symbiote moves and shifts shape during combat is impressive, as is the final reveal when Eddie goes full Venom.

It’s not brilliant, and it lacks a major emotional punch, but it’s perfectly fine viewing, even if it does make you regret that they didn’t introduce this character into the MCU as there doesn’t seem to be any real threat for Venom to face off against here. Potential sequels may change this, but it’s hard to see how they’ll manage this without it seeming shoehorned in.

Also, there’s the villain problem. Ahmed’s performance is solid, but the character is bloodless and the other symbiote, while impressive, doesn’t quite work. The film also suffers from the fact that it and Venom look too similar, meaning during their big showdown it’s hard to tell who’s who.

Enough of it works to make it fun, but this is definitely a lower tier comic book movie.

Verdict: Fun if a bit average. Hardy is good as the lead, but he’s good in everything. The supporting cast are underwritten and it could do with a better villain, but these quibbles aside it has a few laughs, solid action and some pretty cool effects. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Film Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

One of the questions during Infinity War was where was Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man? As one of only a handful of heroes not to appear, Marvel fans were left wondering where he and Hawkeye were when Thanos attacked. Luckily this film explains a lot of what Scott Lang was up to.

antwasp pos

Last seen locked up with the rest of Team Captain America (Chris Evans) at the end of Civil War, Scott has done a deal which has seen him allowed to return home but forced to live under house arrest. He has gone into business with best friend Luis (Michael Pena) starting a security company, and has no contact with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who helped him become Ant-Man.

After Scott shrunk to a subatomic level entering the quantum realm and returned, Hank has begun to think that his wife may still be alive, trapped down there. The father and daughter team prepare to find Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), but their machine doesn’t work, however, Scott has weird dreams about Janet and her memories. After leaving a message with Hank, they kidnap Scott, who worries about breaking parole with only a few days left.

While they try to work out what’s going on they have to deal with black marketeers who are after the quantum tech Hank is working on, and a mysterious figure known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who wants the quantum machine in order to drain Janet’s quantum energy to stabilise her powers which cause her immense pain and are slowly killing her.

Can Scott make peace with Hank after forcing him underground and stealing his suit? Will Scott and Hope reconcile and get their relationship going properly? Will they rescue Janet or will Ghost get to her first? Will Scott get caught and sent back to jail?

First of all, I have to say that this movie is great fun. The dialogue sparkles with humour and the action scenes are magnificent, really making use of the characters’ shrinking and growing powers to create striking, inventive fights and chases. Paul Rudd is predictably great as Scott Lang, and is a likeable, charming presence at the heart of the film and Lilly does really well as his more collected partner. Lilly’s intensity and badassery is a nice contrast to Rudd’s goofiness, and the Wasp is a great addition to the MCU and I hope to see more, but this is still Rudd’s movie.

antwasp wasp

Despite everything this movie does right this feels like a lesser entry into the MCU canon. While still hugely entertaining it fails to live up to the shared universe’s recent run of form (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War). It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s missing but I think it may have to do with two major factors:

Firstly, after the massive scale of Infinity War it feels rather small scale, and while it explains Scott’s absence there to an extent and has one killer reference to the film’s events, it lacks the emotional punch of that film.

Secondly, the film drops the ball with Ghost.

antwasp ghost

Ghost kicking Ant-Man’s ass

A lot of people say that the MCU has a villain problem, but for me this is something the most recent run has worked hard to fix. We’ve had characters like The Vulture, Killmonger, Hela, Ego and Thanos, all villains who have posed a serious threat while also having solid motivation and varying degrees of depth. You felt some sympathy for Killmonger and Hela, cast out by their families. Ego was unrepentant in his ruthless plot. Thanos while flawed showed some love for Gamora and the Vulture remains probably the best of the bunch, a flawed, desperate man pushed to extremes to support his family.

So, what’s wrong with Ghost? Simply put the film makes her far too sympathetic. We see her suffering from the effects of her powers, hear the tragic backstory about how she gained them and how SHIELD weaponized her. The problem is that this could set up a debate about which life is more important, Janet or Ghost. Is it fair to save Janet if it means they can’t cure Ghost, is it okay to kill Janet to save a life? Unfortunately this conflict is never fully developed and while Hank offers to help we never see him working on it, as he’s focused on his wife, understandably.

Worst of all, the film’s actual resolution feels rushed, overly simple and disappointing.

It seems the film has decided that Ghost isn’t a true villain and they throw in Walton Goggins’ smarmy black marketeer, Sonny Burch. While Goggins is quite good in the role he’s clearly there to be a real villain of the piece, but his goons are never an even match. Perhaps had they given Burch a few flash weapons or even a super-powered goon for hire the fights may have been more evenly matched, but as it is they pose little obstacle for our heroes or Ghost.

antwasp giant

What are rent-a-thugs gonna do against a guy who can become a giant?

The laughs come fast and furious, the characters are solid and engaging. The visuals are magnificent and well worth checking out on the big screen, but the film sags and disappoints at the end. Well, apart from one of the best post credit scenes so far.

It feels a waste of the characters and a step back, the first film since Thor: The Dark World that feels like a rushed sequel and not part of a growing universe.

Verdict: Fun, but disappointing. Rudd, Lilly and Pena are great, but they soften the villain too much and it’s definitely a lower tier Marvel movie. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

First thoughts on Jigsaw pictures

I’ve not long finished watching the Netflix series The Punisher, which sees Jon Bernthal take up the role of Frank Castle, the one man army waging a quest for bloody justice. As a massive fan of the comic book character, particular Garth Ennis’ fantastic work, I kinda enjoyed the show although I was glad that they wrapped up the conspiracy theory angle. I’d quite like it if future seasons stuck more to the basics, Castle’s war against organised crime.

One character who is returning to the season is Frank’s former friend and now enemy, Billy “the Beaut” Russo (Ben Barnes), last scene heavily bandaged in hospital after Frank introduced his face to some cut glass. Earlier this week the first on set images of Barnes appeared and the reaction I’ve seen has been largely negative.

It is true that the TV version is distinctly less horrific than the version of the character who adopts the name Jigsaw due to his patchwork face of scars. But for me this is a good thing. Why? Well, let me explain.


Barnes as Russo/Jigsaw

First of all, while it may have been entertaining to see a horrifically mutilated Jigsaw akin to something from a horror movie, it wouldn’t be fitting with the world the Netflix shows have built, which is far more restrained than the source material. To have Barnes walk around like Leatherface wouldn’t fit with the rest of the look of the show.

My second argument for the reduced scarring is that it could actually work well into the character’s story, motivation and presence in the second series. A fully deformed Russo would be almost sympathetic and his psychopathic tendencies easier to dismiss. But the less scarred version? That’s a lot more interesting.

While the scars are noticeable and the kind of thing you wouldn’t want to have done to you, they’re not actually that bad. But here is where the writers’ can play up Russo’s vanity and warped perception. He can see himself as an utterly hideous freak, describing the wounds in extreme terms or even seeing something different when he looks in the mirror. It can become an obsession for him, a mania that he can’t escape from, regardless of the reassurance of others or the actual physical reality.

Billy was a rich man in season one, and while many of his assets will no doubt have been seized by the authorities, it makes sense that he’d have some stashed away. We could have the story follow that he’s burned through these resources with surgeries to tidy his wounds, but wants more done.

This could lead him to sell his military skills as an enforcer/hitman to organized crime, leading him to cross paths with Frank once more.

Similarly, they could highlight the depths of his obsession by showing his changed circumstances. We saw Billy as a man with expensive tests but he could now be shown a broken man in more than ways than one. Living in a mirror of Frank’s stripped down bases, he has only the essentials and a plethora of skin creams and ointments which he applies with obsessive dedication. Rebuilding his shattered face is his major obsession, rivalled only by his desire for revenge on the man who inflicted it on him.

At least, that’s how I would write it.

So, I don’t see the minimal scarring as a cop out, but rather as a sign that the show is avoiding grotesquery and going for something a little more subtle and psychological.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Film Review: Deadpool 2

The first Deadpool was a blast, a crude, rude romp of OTT violence, winks to camera and gags. Could they capture lightning in a bottle twice? I was hopeful, but apprehensive. Thankfully a few minutes in and the line “Hit it, Dolly!” settled my nerves. We were back and this was gonna be a whole lotta fun too.

Ryan Reynolds as the Merc with a Mouth is easily one of the best castings in comic book movie history (along with Patrick Stewart as Prof X, RDJ as Tony Stark and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian), and he’s on fine form here in a fast paced, foul mouthed adventure.

After a mistake leads to personal tragedy Deadpool finds himself at a low ebb and seeking redemption, leading him to join the X-Men as a trainee. On his first mission he deals with an angry teen mutant Russell (Julian Dennison) who wants vengeance on the people who run the centre he lives at and takes the name Fire Fist. After trying to talk him down Wade has to use force to subdue him but realizes Russell is being abused, prompting him to kill one of the staff, causing the anger of new teammates Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Stefan Kapicic and Briana Hildebrand, respectively). Russell and Wade are taken into custody, their powers negated, meaning that Wade is slowly dying from cancer which his healing factor was keeping at bay.

Wade brushes off Russell’s attempts to create a partnership and advises him to find other prisoners to protect him. However, when the prison is attacked, Wade defends him and fights the attacker, Cable (Josh Brolin). It transpires that Cable is from the future where Russell has become a mass murderer, including killing Cable’s family. Cable plans to kill Russell in order to stop these events.

Russell hears Wade say he doesn’t care and seeks out a dangerous inmate for an ally, while Wade realises saving Russell may be the purpose he needs. To achieve this he puts a team together to save the kid and stop Cable, dubbing the team X-Force.

Can Wade find purpose? Will he be able to stop Cable and can he set Russell on a different path? And is he really cut out to lead a superhero team?

I loved this movie, which had me crying with laughter in places and is relentlessly entertaining. The action is bloody and wince inducing in places, but much of it is played for laughs. Also the story of redemption, destiny and “being better” is handled well without being preachy.

The relationship between the characters is handled quite well, particularly the wise cracking Wade having to deal with the stoic Cable, played with deadpan badassery by Brolin, who does well with the part.

It’s not going to be for everyone given the crude nature of many of the gags, the gore and the tone, but for me it works. The new characters who are introduced are an interesting bunch and a poorly used character from the X-movies gets a second chance to impress.

There are a few gags that probably won’t age well, but most work fine and Reynolds is charismatic as the lead, and seems utterly at home here. Here’s hoping we get more adventures.

A blast.

Verdict: Manages to match the original and keeps the laughs and action flowing. It misdirects the audience nicely a few times and there are several nice touches. Reynolds impresses again. Bloody, crass and delightfully postmodern this is a great ride. 9/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Film Review: Avengers: Infinity War

In 2008 when Robert Downey Jr made his debut as Tony Stark in Iron Man, I don’t think anyone could predict just how successful the Marvel Cinematic Universe would become. Several cracking movies later, the main event arrives, the arrival of Thanos (Josh Brolin) which unites all the various strands into one story.

The movie kicks off with Thanos having attacked the Asgardian refugees (see Thor: Ragnarok). Here he defeats Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). The Hulk is transported to Earth, while Thanos having got his hands on the Space Stone destroys the ship.

This leaves Thanos with two of the six infinity stones he needs to gain supreme powers. The other four are scattered throughout the universe- the Mind Stone and Time Stone are on Earth, the Mind being part of the Vision (Paul Bettany), the synthetic Avenger while sorcerer supreme Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) posses the Time Stone. The Reality Stone is in the possesion of the Collector (Benicio Del Toro) on the planet Knowhere. The final one, the Soul Stone is missing.

Thanos’ minions head out to retrieve the stones. Thor, cast adrift is found by the Guardians of the Galaxy, who agree to help stop Thanos. The team splits into two- Rocket and Groot (Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel, respectively) join Thor to go and get a weapon powerful enough to kill Thanos. Meanwhile, Peter Quill aka Star Lord (Chris Pratt) leads the others to Knowhere. Before they leave Gamora (Zoe Saldana) reveals she has important information and that Peter must kill her if Thanos is about to take her captive.

Meanwhile, on Earth the two individuals with the stones are attacked. Doctor Strange, having been warned by the Hulk contacts Iron Man, who tells him to run. Spider-Man (Tom Holland) joins the fight, but they are unable to stop Strange from being captured. Iron Man and Spider-Man stow away aboard the space ship and attempt to rescue the Doctor as they head for Thanos’ homeworld Titan.

The Vision is attacked while with Scarlet Witch (Emma Olsen), but they are helped by Captain America (Chris Evans) and his teammates Black Widow and Falcon (Scarlett Johansson and Anthony Mackie). They defeat the attackers and after linking up with War Machine (Don Cheadle) and the Hulk they decide to remove the stone from Vision, as he may survive without it. For help they travel to Wakanda, kingdom of the Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

Can they protect all the stones against a powerful foe and his army? Will they stop Thanos’ quest to restore balance to the universe by killing half of the population.

Thanos’ quest is of course utter madness, but it’s root is from a place of coldly logical thought and Brolin does well in the role, which has unexpected vulnerability and humanity. He’s still a fanatic, obsessed with his mission, but we do see he has real feelings and connections. He’s almost sympathetic at times while never stopping being the villain we want to see defeated.

With so many heroes in one film the film could have become muddled and rushed, but to the filmmakers’ credit the story unfolds at a decent pace and the idea to split up our heroes and having them fight on different fronts works very well. It adds a sense of scale and keeps the storylines separate, and allows different teams to form.

All the different characters have chances shine and the action sequences are impressive. There’s a real “event” feel to proceedings and the crossover works brilliantly.

Hugely entertaining and with high stakes this also packs an emotional punch. With such a formidable foe deaths are on the cards and I’ve been dodging spoilers, and will avoud them here.

There are a fair few bodies dropping in this movie and most land emotionally. Even after the first couple they don’t lose their edge and one of the last ones is the one that cut me deepest.

There’s a school of thought that dismisses the MCU as being too lighthearted, but for me the quips and gags have always been deliberate attempts by characters to mask fear or pain. It’s telling here that as the movie moves towards an Empire Strikes Back style of downbeat ending there is a stop to the jokes. In fact, dialogue stops all together as our heroes deal with the fallout.

After teases and hype Thanos finally hits the MCU and does so like a freight train. He delivers on all the threats and references, leaving our heroes reeling and damaged. And for the first time the villain is still standing at the end, and still a threat.

But you can’t keep a good hero or franchise down, and the post credits scene hints at a new player entering the fray. This isn’t the end for the MCU but does feel like a new chapter. And part of me dreads what comes next, especially as contracts run out.

For a young comic book fan the big universe shaking events were always a big deal (although partly because they were rarer then) and this movie manages to capture that excitement and scale, and gives most of the characters a chance to shine.

Marvel knocked this out of the park.

Verdict: A big blockbuster that actually feels big. All the planning plays off and with a legitimately threatening villain this has genuine peril. Amazinly it delivers on the hype and is a superhero epic. 9.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Film Review: Black Panther

Often the weight of expectation can seriously damage your enjoyment of a movie, and having watched the excitement and adoration for this film grow online when I finally got to see it this week it had a lot to live up to.

To it’s credit it is a solid movie, entertaining throughout and a worthy addition to the MCU. However, for me it seems like a second tier entry in the series and not quite as good as some of the hype had said.

The film deals with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to his homeland of Wakanda to assume the throne following the death of his father (see Captain America: Civil War). He must deal with his own doubts about whether he is ready to rule.

He also pursues Ulysseus Klaue (Andy Serkis) an arms dealer who has stolen Wakanda’s most valuable resource, Vibranium, the metal which powers their advanced technology. Klaue also has a new ally in Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), a vicious and ruthless individual with a murky past and secret connections to the Wakandan royal family.

Can T’Challa adapt to his new role as king and maintain justice? Can Wakanda keep it’s advances secret and safe from the rest of the world?

The good for this movie is that it continues the entertaining, fun and action filled tone that the Marvel universe is built on. It also creates a whole new setting in Wakanda, a high tech utopia. To the credit of the filmmakers they have crafted a fictional society that feels real, with it’s own traditions, factions and history.

Some aspects of this are wonderfully done like the Dora Milaje, an all female elite guard who are shown as a brilliantly badass fighting force. Or the way each of Wakanda’s five tribes is different.

However, there was one aspect of Wakanda that struck a bum note with me. It seems massively selfish of the country to horde the technology it has, and while concerns over their weaponry are understandable, their withholding of medical advancements is hard to defend. This forms part of the plot of the film but at times the “Wakanda is best” rhetoric from some characters felt a little bit full of itself.

Similarly a point about how Wakanda had been spared oppression unlike much of Africa didn’t ring true. Yes, it had kept out foreign invaders, but T’Challa’s ancestors had taken over the five tribes because of the powers given to them by Vibranium.

These minor points aside the movie works well, although for once this is a comic book film that could have benefited from more villains, perhaps a henchman for Killmonger. It would have provided a second more viable threat for the finale.

That being said the finale is pretty good anyway, and the fight scenes throughout are very well done, particularly the larger scale battles. There’s also a belter of a car chase.

I enjoyed this movie and had great fun. I’ve long liked the character of T’Challa and Boseman does good work here, even if the love subplot was a little underwhelming. And there are some good new characters introduced, particularly M’Baku (Winston Duke) leader of one of Wakanda’s tribes and a swaggering, colourful character who exists on the fringe of Wakandan society. Similarly I also really liked Okoye, the Dora Milaje leader played by The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, who can kickass but hints at a softer, more humorous side.

A solid adventure and ticks a lot of boxes, but I think I went in expecting too much.

Verdict; 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Top 10 Films of 2017

As ever this is my personal ranking of the movies I saw this year.

10. Baywatch

Carried by the easy charisma of Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, nobody could call this movie smart but it kept the laughs coming with an OTT plot and some nice touches. Read my full review here.

9. Kong: Skull Island

Glorious on the IMAX screen, this succeeded where Godzilla failed in succeding as a fun movie. The monster throwdowns are entertaining and the 1970s setting works. Sure, I didn’t quite buy Tom Hiddleston as an SAS badass, but other than that a solid blockbuster. Review here.

8. Wonder Woman

The strongest DC movie so far this gives us the background of Diana (Gal Gadot) coming to the world of men. 

It’s a decent movie, but WW only gets a handful of fights with enemies equal to her own abilities and there is way too much slo-mo. Also, in a film which repeatedly talks about how wrong violence is, the Amazons fighting are clearly supposed to look cool. A decent movie, but I think some reviews were a bit hyperbolic. My own response is more measured.

7. Baby Driver

Edgar Wright produces a fun, fast paced action musical loaded with killer songs and a great cast. Slick and in touch with its genre roots. Here’s my quick review.

6. Spider-Man: Homecoming

The first Spidey movie that for me truly got the character right with Tom Holland excelling inside and outside of the suit. It captures the struggles of Peter Parker both as a regular teen and with his new powers and responsibilities. Having Robert Downey Junior’s Tony Stark as a mentor figure is a nice touch and Michael Keaton’s Vulture is a cracking villain, with layers the character has lacked.

Hugely entertaining, with some great action sequences and quality gags this was like a Spider-Man book come to life. I gush even more here.
5. Beauty and the Beast

Disney manage to give a live action spin to one of their best animated films. It works because it captures the original magic while also deepening and strengthening the story. I loved it.

4. Logan

Hugh Jackman has been playing everyone’s favourite Canadian mutant for almost two decades. This his ninth outing is the perfect way to hang up the role. With an end of the line feel this grim, gritty tale sees an aging, failing Wolverine looking after a dementia struck Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Content to hide out and lay low, he is forced back into action when a young girl very much like him crosses his path.

The dark tone works well, and the higher rating allows Logan to finally cut loose on screen, proving that he is the best he is at what he does, and it ain’t pretty. A great send off for Jackman and the character and the best X-movie of them all? I think so.
3. Thor: Ragnarok

Chris Hemsworth’s third outing as the Asgardian Avenger is his best. Just fun from the jump with familiar faces alongside some cool new characters. I wrote about it here.

2. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

Marvel’s misfits return for a second adventure which matches their arrival. The wisecracking anti-heroes explore Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) past and evade numerous foes. Hugely entertaining, it also packs an emotional punch near the end and having rewatched on telly my admiration only growns. One of Marvel’s best, you can read my original thoughts here.

1. Dunkirk 

Christopher Nolan delivers a war movie which is amazingly tense and in many ways understated. There are no gung ho heroics, just regular men desperately trying to survive. The cast is superb and the chronological shuffling heightens the tension and allows us to see different aspects. It’s not fun, as it’s far too intense for that but it is excellent filmmaking. Review.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.