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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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: Chef

I’ve been a Jon Favreau fan for some time, starting off as an actor thanks to his appearances in Friends, The Replacements and Daredevil, but growing as I discovered his work as a writer and a director. He wrote the cool, funny Swingers and directed a couple of quality flicks including laying the groundwork for the Marvel cinematic universe by helming the first two Iron Man movies. Having knocked those two out of the park and followed them up with the flawed, but fun Cowboys and Aliens, Favreau is in the blockbuster leagues, especially as he prepares to make The Jungle Book for Disney. So his new movie, Chef, stands out, because it’s a much smaller, more personal feeling movie.

chef poster

Favreau is in triple threat mode here- writing, directing and starring as Carl Casper, the eponymous chef. Casper is a Miami born chef who now works in LA at a restaurant owned by Riva (Dustin Hoffman). With a well regarded critic due to arrive Carl has plans a tasting menu to show of his skills and wow the writer, but Riva argues that they should stick to the set menu as people like it. Despite protesting Carl agrees to this, but the writer isn’t pleased and posts a scathing and insulting review.

Carl also has a far from perfect home life, and struggles to relate to his ten year old son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), unsure of what to do he constantly tries to find “fun” things for them to do when his son would actually rather hang out and talk. Carl remains on good terms with his ex, Inez (Sofia Vergara), who seems to genuinely care about him.

The review goes viral, and helped by Percy, Carl joins Twitter, however his lack of knowledge about the social network results in him openly calling out the reviewer and stating he will cook him something totally new. Sadly, Riva vetoes this idea and Carl storms out, leaving the writer, Ramsey (Oliver Platt, who nicely avoids falling into traditional douchey critic stereotype) with the same menu. He tweets about it and Carl returns to the restaurant where he explodes and his outburst is caught on camera phones, going viral and earning him online notoriety.

Stuck for something to do, he agrees to go with Inez to Miami where she has meetings and to look after Percy. While there they spend time together as a family and Carl agrees to begin a food truck business, something Inez has been pushing for a while. Joined by his old friend and assistant Martin (John Leguizamo) and helped by Percy they fix up a battered old van and begin serving Cuban style sandwiches.

Carl and Martin decide to drive the truck back to LA and Inez agrees that Percy can join them. They then begin a coast-to-coast road trip which allows Carl to pass on his love of cooking and also to bond with Percy.

Quality time: Carl (Favreau) introducing his boy Percy (Anthony) to the sight and tastes of New Orleans

Quality time: Carl (Favreau) introducing his boy Percy (Anthony) to the sight and tastes of New Orleans

Okay, two things about this flick- 1. I loved it and 2. If you are gonna check it out, eat before you watch it because Favreau shoots the food so beautifully that you will get hungry. Seriously, this is food porn to an extent I’ve never seen before.

The movie is shot beautifully and simply, with Favreau really capturing the hustle of the different cities they visit and the beauty of life on the road (along with hunger this movie will also fire up the wanderlust). There are also some really nice touches regarding the social network stuff, with little speech bubbles appearing when characters write tweets and small blue birds zipping off when they’re sent. Coupled with Vines and changing Facebook pages I can’t think of a movie that conveys the energy and ubiquity of social networking.

But this isn’t just about the movie looking fresh and beautiful, like Carl’s cooking the real strength here is the passion and heart. Favreau manages to make the father-son dynamic wonderfully charming and sweet, never veering into overly sentimental territory. A large part of this is down to the script, which is sometimes profane but always realistic. Well, aside from the fact that Carl hooks up with a hostess who looks like Scarlett Johansson, but I’ll forgive Favreau this tiny part of wish fulfillment.

Scarlett Johansson as Molly the hostess

Scarlett Johansson as Molly the hostess

 

Despite it’s family theme and the presence of the young Percy, it’s a 15 rated movie here in the UK due to the language and some of the sexual frankness.

That’s not to say it’s dirty or anything, in fact, its extremely sweet in places and this realistic banter, especially between the male characters grounds it and shows the kind of guy Carl is and why he might struggle in his role as a father.

The performances are great across the board, with Favreau a likable, charming presence, managing to convey the character’s passion for cooking in a believable way. His interaction with all the characters feels natural and his anger at the critic is understandable, with the meltdown being pitched perfectly.

As for Anthony as his son, it’s one of the better kid performances I’ve seen, with the youngster managing to capture his hurt and need for a relationship with his father in a pleasantly understated way. He’s cute without being cutesy and works brilliantly with Favreau.

The rest of the cast do their roles well enough, and there are cameos from Favreau’s blockbuster buddies (Johansson and Robert Downey Jr crop up) but the stand out is Leguizamo as Carl’s right hand man, Martin. Talking a mile a minute Leguizamo makes the foul mouthed, swaggering character extremely likable and funny, and there are moments where he and Favreau goof around with the easiness of long time friends.

Favreau and Leguizamo as the old mates on the road

Favreau and Leguizamo as the old mates on the road

One other strength the movie has is the fantastic soundtrack, which has a Latin flavour and includes several cool and inventive covers of old standards like “Message to You Rudy” and “Sexual Healing”.

Favreau knocks this one out of the park, nailing the tone perfectly and crafting a glorious, sweet confection that warms the heart and has plenty of laughs along the way. My only problem? Who calls their kid Percy in this day and age?

Verdict: Simply marvelous, the performances and music raise this into a different league and Favreau manages to keep it touching without getting bogged down in cheese. There aren’t a lot of surprises along the way, but it’s still a great trip to make. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


My Top 10 Films of 2013

Okay, this is how it works- they either had to be released this year or I saw them in the cinema in the last twelve months, so if they were released in December 2012 but I only caught them in January they’re allowed on the list. Anyway, here we go.

Honourable mentions- World War Z, The World’s End.

10. Side Effects

A gripping thriller taking place against the background of America’s drug culture and boasting great performances from Jude Law and Rooney Mara, along with a brittle, cold turn from Catherine Zeta Jones. Gripping and interesting, with a few nice twists towards the end. Review.

9. Man of Steel

Henry Cavill impresses as Superman and Amy Adams is wonderful as Lois Lane in this enjoyable superhero adventure. The final fight is a bit overlong, but there’s plenty to enjoy here, and Kevin Costner is fantastically cast as Jonathan Kent. More than makes up for the woeful Superman Returns. Full review here.

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8. Flight

Centred around a typically charismatic performance from Denzel Washington, this is a rather entertaining thriller which leaves you in two minds, partly rooting for the hero to get away with it but knowing he needs to mend his ways. It’s a tad predictable in places, but Washington holds the attention and there’s enough humour to keep it fizzing. Review.

7. Warm Bodies

A pleasantly sweet and endearing romantic comedy with zombies, I really dug this movie and it appealed to both my soppy liking for romance and love of the undead. My thoughts here.

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6. Star Trek Into Darkness

JJ Abrams’ reboot of the Star Trek franchise moves ahead with the second installment, and ups the tension. For newcomers there are plenty of thrills and for old fans like me a few nice riffs on the old universe. The big reveal of who Benedict Cumberbatch’s character wasn’t a massive surprise, but it’s still a great fun watch and expands the Kirk-Spock relationship, although I hope we get more of Karl Urban’s McCoy in later films. Review here.

5. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

As with the books the second part of the story builds on the first, expanding Suzanne Collins’ fictional world and upping the stakes. Jennifer Lawrence continues to impress in the lead role. Full review.

catching fire poster

4. Pitch Perfect

Hilarious comedy with some nice musical numbers and a brilliant lead in the wonderfully charming Anna Kendrick, even though she has the whole film stolen from under her by the fantastic Rebel Wilson. Review.

Scene stealing- Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy

Scene stealing- Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy

3. Django Unchained

Tarantino’s long anticipated Western finally arrived and was superb, gloriously OTT but with a darker, more emotional edge. Much is played for laughs, but the violence against the slaves is done in such a way that shows it’s callous brutality in painful terms. The script has the trademark QT edge and the performances from Jamie Foxx, Christoph Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio and particularly Samuel L Jackson. And the “hoods scene” remains one of the year’s funniest moments. More.

2. Iron Man 3

Shane Black takes over the reins and guides it to new heights, with this hugely entertaining superhero romp which cements Robert Downey Jr as possibly the best cast superhero in movies. Deals with the fallout from Avengers and shows us a more fragile Stark. Review here.

1. Argo

Ben Affleck continues to impress behind the camera and his execution of this historical thriller is sublime. Managing to capture the edgy tension of the hostages in Iran and the humour in the CIA’s unorthodox plan to extract them, swinging between belly laughs and nail chewing suspense. Review.

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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.

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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.

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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


10 Movies I’m Most Looking Forward To At The Moment

In no real order but these are the movies I’m looking forward to most at the moment, all release dates are the UK ones listed on IMDb.com

1. Django Unchained

I might have been let’s say “underwhelmed” by his last two directorial outings, but a new Quentin Tarantino movie is always going to be cause for excitement in this geek and the signs are good. A pretty impressive cast and a trailer which makes it look like a cool, fun flick that plays with the Western genre conventions and it seems to ooze cool and QT’s patented mix of dark humour, violence and badassery.

Has QT returned to his best?

Has QT returned to his best?

Release Date: 18th Jan

2. Iron Man 3

Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark is one of the best pieces of casting in years and just as the first film started the road towards the Avengers movie the building for Avengers 2 starts here, it looks as though they’re going to go a little darker and introducing the Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) a powerful villain who should present a fun new challenge. Away from the explosions and fights I’m quite interested to see how they continue to develop the relationship between Tony and Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow)

RD: 26th April

3. World War Z

An adaptation of one of my favourite books of all time and featuring one of my favourite actors, Brad Pitt, this zombie flick looks genuinely impressive and epic in scope. They’ve clearly made changes from the awesome novel, but it still looks well worth a watch.

First glimpse of the cool, swarming zombies from World War Z

First glimpse of the cool, swarming zombies from World War Z

RD: 21st June

4. Man of Steel

Superman Returns was dire, but this looks like an improvement. Be interesting to see how Zack Snyder deals with having to rein in his trademark OTT, stylized visuals and the casting of Supes’ daddies seems quite inspired- Russell Crowe as Kryptonian papa Jor-El and Kevin Costner as nice guy Jonathan Kent, the man who would shape Kal-El into the protector of truth, justice and the American way.

RD: 14th June

5. This is the End

A fantastic cast of Hollywood funnymen (Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Danny McBride and Craig Robinson) play versions of themselves as they try and cope with the Apocalypse, looks like it might be quite a weird and fun movie, and the cast are consistently good value for money.

thisistheend

RD: 28th June

6. The Wolverine

I may have been burned by the clawed mutant’s previous solo outing but Hugh Jackman is awesome as Logan, and the idea of him fighting ninjas in Japan sounds like an awesome premise. Here’s hoping they don’t blunt his claws so much this time.

RD: 26th July

7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

The follow up to one of my favourite films from last year will see Jennifer Lawrence return as Katniss Everdeen as she takes on new challenges in the dystopian Pan-Em. Keen to see where the story goes, although I’ll probably read the books first.

RD: 22nd Nov

8. Warm Bodies

Nicholas Hoult plays a zombie in an undead future who starts to regain his humanity after falling for one of the uninfected. Saw the trailer last week and it made me laugh and seems like it might be a fun, oddly sweet zom-com.

warmbodies

RD: 8th Feb

9. GI Joe: Retalliation

The Rock and Bruce Willis, ’nuff said.

RD: 27th March

10. The World’s End

Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost round off their three Cornetto’s trilogy as a group of friends stage a pub crawl as the end of the world looms. The first two flicks from the Pegg-Wright team were belters so I’ve got high hopes for this one.

theworldsend

RD: 14th Aug

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.


Pic Post: Re-Imaginings, RDJ and a Redhead

Robert Downey Jr- Coolest man alive

The legend that is RDJ giving a great interview response.

Fast Times at Mos Eisley High

This artist, Denis Medri, did a series of pictures where he re-imagined Star Wars characters as though they were 80s High School characters. Its pretty geeky, but pretty cool, and I love some of the touches like Luke’s skateboard being the same colour as the landspeeder, or how they do Leia’s distinctive “Danish pastries” look.

A few of the pics are pretty awesome and you can see the full set here, but my personal fave is this one which sees Han and Chewie turned into swaggering, mulleted bad boys. I also dig Han’s shirt.

Playing With Your Food

Eat your heart out, Heston Blumenthal

Clobberin’ Time

This made me chuckle.

Hot Picture of the Week

Its been an especially geeky collection, so here’s nerd culture queen Felicia Day, star of Buffy, The Guild and the awesome Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog (seriously, check it out its amazing and features Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion).

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