Friday, April 29, 2016

On the Air Season 3 Episode 6 - The Winter Eagle

Well folks,

Here is the sixth Radio episode I did this year and the first to be done in the Studio and on it I talk about:

- Eddie the Eagle
- The Huntsman Winters War
- The Boss
- The Jungle Book

As always you can listen on Soundcloud:

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Film Review - Captain America Civil War (2016)

Captain America Civil War is the latest Marvel Studios film and the story here sees Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and Captain America (Chris Evans) torn as the UN Security Council has had enough of the Avengers tearing up the world and causing death and destruction so they draft the Sokovia Accords and Cap just can't bring himself to sign them knowing what he'll trade away to do so but Stark is more than willing to do so and loyalties quickly become divided.

I am very very mixed on this film and I my mixed feelings fall into the old and the new:

- First off the new stuff is great and right at the top of that list is Tom Holland as the new Spider-Man, he's only in the film briefly but I just LOVED!!! every moment he was on screen and as a long time Spidey fan it just warms my heart to no end to see that character finally done justice on the big screen, hopefully next year's Spider-Man Homecoming film will continue the trend.

- Secondly Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther is also great and makes the most of every moment he's on screen, first as the noble King T'Chala of Wakanda and then as Black Panther and his physical action is a real highlight to watch in the film, I'm definitely more keen to see more of his character in the solo Black Panther film.

- And third I liked seeing Paul Rudd again as Ant Man and he has a great part to play in this film, I liked him last year in the solo Ant Man film and he's becoming a real highlight of the MCU for me.

But as for the old:

- Firstly the storytelling here feels a tiny bit unfocused at times in terms of bringing in Spidey and Black Panther as well as the villain plot and the ideological conflict between Cap and Iron Man and at times they feel like they're fighting their own Civil War for space on the cinema screen, it also didn't really do that much for me as once again Marvel Studios continues to give us another dud villain.

Now do not get me wrong Daniel Bruhl is a great young actor and he does make the very most of it he can but his motivation simply didn't add up as I just went "What oh come on this is Lazy" and as a result part of me wishes he hadn't been in this film at all then you could've had that central Cap/Stark conflict be more of the beating heart behind this film but unlike Paramount where Marvel Studios first set up camp, I doubt very much that Walt Disney Pictures would ever let a Marvel film be like say an X-Men film or one of the DC films.

- Secondly I thought the action in the film whilst fine in bits and pieces there was too much of it, every 15 to 20 minutes it felt like we get an action sequence just so the people in the back rows of the cinemas don't start falling asleep during the talky bits and after a while I felt action fatigue which culminated in the much talked about Airport battle which is great fun to watch but it went for too long and the hand to hand fights have great physical stunts but are badly edited, again some will be happy with this but I wanted something more behind that action.

- And lastly I thought Evans and Downey were pretty flat this time around, Downey in particular just sounded bored throughout the whole film and whenever he was on screen I was partially pulled out of the film which isn't good, Sebastian Stan was fine as Bucky, Anthony Mackie was the same as Falcon but Paul Bettany is wasted as Vision and Elizabeth Olsen doesn't really get to do much at all as Scarlet Witch which is a real shame.

And so that was Captain America Civil War, the new is great but the old bored me a little so its a classic 2 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - Eddie the Eagle (2016)

Eddie the Eagle is based off of the true story of Eddie Edwards the British Winter Olympic Ski jumper in 1988, Eddie is played by Taron Edgerton from Kingsman last year and his coach Bronson Peary is played by Hugh Jackman, together they hope to accomplish Eddie's Olympic Dreams.

I was very much looking forward to this film for a while now mainly because it partially reminded me of my own story in terms of just being constantly written off as "No Good, this, that, a Failure and a Waste of our Time" (it does make you very determined to prove people wrong) and it had Hugh in it so could the film deliver or fall flat on its face in the snow.

Well I loved every single moment of this film, in fact this is probably my co-favourite film of 2016 so far along with the Hateful Eight, this film had a great great story of hope and courage and determination and I smiled from ear to ear, I was completely gripped by the story and when I came out of it I felt very emotional.

Edgerton is simply wonderful in this film and his performance once more shows what a great young talent this guy is turning into and he steals every scene he is in, Jackman is FINALLY back on great form after a few duds in recent years, I also loved the look and sound of the film it does very much place you in the late 80s.

I have nothing bad to say about Eddie the Eagle and all of you should go and see it, 4 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - The Boss (2016)

The Boss stars Melissa McCarthy as Michelle Darnelle the head of a company who then finds herself convicted of Insider Trading but when she gets out of prison she tracks down her old assistant (Kristen Bell) and becomes determined to get back to the top.

Plenty to say about the Boss:

- Firstly if you have seen the Simpsons episodes where Mr Burns went broke and lost the Power Plant and Marge joined the Pretzel Wagon then the story of this film will feel very familiar to you as it did for me (this isn't the first time this has happened) and there were points where I literally thought of those episodes while the film went on.

- Secondly McCarthy is her typical self but her husband director Ben Falcone (they also co wrote and produced the film together) lets her go too far out on the edge whereas Paul Feig who directed her in Bridesmaids and Spy and soon in the new Ghostbusters is more willing to say to her "That works and that doesn't" hopefully Feig will crack the whip with her and the new Ghostbusters like he did in Spy later this year.

As for Bell I liked her here as the young single Mum trying to do the right thing but my fav performance in the film is Peter Dinklage as Renault, I thought he was a very fun villain and a lot of the best gags in the film were his.

- But lastly a lot of the jokes just didn't land for me as once again female anatomy has become something to laugh at and make fun of well I'm sorry but I just do not find it very funny much and I barely laughed at the film as a result of it.

In contrast the preview for the Nice Guys with Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling and I laughed my head off at that preview whereas here I giggled on occasion but not genuine laughter very much.

But if you are a Melissa McCarthy fan (I can take her or leave her) then you'll have fun at the Boss, 1.5 out of 5.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Is it time to End the Cinematic Universe?

This has been the one question that has been rattling around in my head for a while now (well the last couple of weeks mainly) since seeing Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice and not hating it as much as others have but the more I come to think about the film the more I just think that it's an absolute mess of a film script and direction wise.

But perhaps those problems are only symptoms of what could be a much larger problem for DC given that this film was to be the seed from which 2013's Man of Steel planted and with that would also come the much anticipated DC Cinematic Universe to rival Marvel Studios' MCU slate of films.

But things have not gone to plan as Dawn of Justice has been trashed all over by both critics and fans alike (the film suffered a 70% drop in attendance this last weekend and both of my cinemas have said the film has not done very well and in the case of my main cinema not having 1 person tell them they loved the film.)

But getting back on track to the question I pose in the title I think this has to be seriously considered for these three key reasons:

- First and foremost is the rush from studios be they Warner Brothers or Columbia Pictures or 20th Century Fox to create their own shared universe with the Superhero properties they own under their roof be it Spider-Man at Columbia or the X-Men and the Fantastic Four at 20th Century Fox and the DC slate of characters at Warner Brothers.

And almost all of them have since been revealed to be near complete and utter failures purely because they rushed in where the Angels at Marvel feared to tread and also Marvel under the leadership of Kevin Feige did the hard yards setting up their universe from 2008 to 2012 which included their own missteps along the way with the Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2 but those along with Iron Man, Thor and Captain America all culminated with the Avengers in 2012 which became a triumph all around.

Meanwhile, Columbia tried and failed with the Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014 to create their Spidey Universe and that became such a debacle for them that they had to go cap in hand to Marvel to get the show back on the road again, Fox suffered a humiliating blow with Fantastic Four last year which was meant to eventually crossover with the X-Men and now Warner Brothers has egg on its face with the failure of Dawn of Justice.

- This leads nicely into my next reason and that is the compromises required to simply get these movies made as all of those films mentioned above came with very high budgets (Dawn of Justice cost $250m to make, Amazing Spider-Man 2 cost $255m and F4 cost $120m to make)

Now contrast all of those with Fox's recent smash Deadpool and that cost wait for it, wait for it...

Only $58m to make.

Yes $58m to make and Tim Miller and his team didn't have to make any compromises at all in order to get that film made and make in a way that they could fulfill the vision they had for it, the tone they wanted to strike and do justice to the story they wanted to tell in a way that would satisfy the fans of the comic as well as the broader public and Fox mainly because they weren't pouring in so much money to make it were smart enough to let them make the film they all wanted to make.

And what was the result you might say: Well it's the biggest hit of the year so far save for Disney's Zootopia and the buzz I felt when I came out of the film both times was very positive (and I mean really positive)

Meanwhile the likes of Zack Snyder and Chris Terrio on Dawn of Justice, Marc Webb and his writers on Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Josh Trank and his team on Fantastic Four all had to either compromise their visions in order to satisfy the greater good ("The Greater Good") of the broader cinematic universe or had to deal with constant studio meddling for the sheer cost of simply making these big movies where so much rides on them can see a compromised mess play out on screen that in the long run never really ends up satisfying either the fans or the general public and indeed all of those films struggled to cut through at the Box Office and/or with Moviegoers and Critics.

- And lastly the effect it is leaving on the overall film industry is slowing but surely creating a choking effect to the point where only a select handful of films receive the comfort of studio financing as opposed to independent financing.

Just thinking about the past 6 months of my own movie going experience I keep coming back to how it feels like I'm only seeing just 3 to 4 kinds of films being made:

-- The Big Summer Blockbuster
-- Family Films
-- Arthouse Productions
-- Awards Contenders

In the end well at least for me you want to experience a wide mix of films to be able to go and see at the cinema I mean look at 10 Cloverfield Lane which I really enjoyed this was just a mid range Thriller film that rarely gets the kind of safe, secure Studio financing that 10 to 20 years ago it would've gotten but because JJ Abrams is one of the top Hollywood people right now it got that financing whereas now a lot of those sort of films that would've been the studio's mid budget pictures now find themselves on the independent and arthouse markets where financing comes with greater risk and mainstream distribution is much harder to come by.

And all of this when I think about it as well as my recent column about just how long a Franchise can really last before it resorts to just using the same bag of tricks multiple times over I feel that the time is soon coming where a major rethink of this Cinematic Universe formula that is currently on show here must be considered.

And one studio that I feel has started on this road has been 20th Century Fox now yes Fantastic Four has been nothing but trouble for them and they should let that go back to Marvel Studios ASAP but their handling of the X-Men franchise has been first rate save for some pretty big and crappy potholes along the road.

Deadpool along with X-Men Days of Future Past from 2014 have for me been the 2 best comic book films of the past 3 years and I feel that way because they tell their own story from beginning to end, they tip their hate to the larger universe but they never feel like the setup either overwhelms or sidetracks the main story and as a result they have been well received by fans and reviewers for the most part.

Part of this has also come about for them because they were not so heavily locked in to the Cinematic Universe formula in the way that Warner Brothers and Columbia Pictures are which took away from them that crucial period where if the film fails they have no time to stop, take stock and reassess the situation going forward.

And indeed Fox could've done this very thing after F4 left them humiliated (which they brought on themselves let's be honest about that) but because they were not so locked in to that formula it allowed them time to reassess things and regroup going forward and now they're looking at 2 very big hits this year with Deadpool and X-Men Apocalypse while WB is now looking like Wile E Coyote after an ACME bomb blew up in his face and Columbia threw in the towel and arranged visitation rights for Marvel Studios regarding Spider-Man.

Now look there is still a very very long way to go before change happens but if more studios can learn from their misfires like I feel Fox has after Fant4stic then perhaps there is still hope somewhere to be found but as in all things we wait and we see what will transpire.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Film Review - The Jungle Book (2016)

The Jungle Book is based off of the Rudyard Kipling book and the 1966 Disney animated feature and sees Mowgli (Neel Sethi) being hunted by the Tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) so he flees into the Jungle where he meets Baloo (Bill Murray) who teaches him all about the Bare Necessities but Shere Khan can't be ignored forever.

I am very mixed on the Jungle Book, I think Jon Favreau did a good job directing the film and it feels more like the Favreau that gave us the first Iron Man and Chef and I love Sethi as Mowgli along with Murray as Baloo, Christopher Walken as King Louie, Scarlett Johansson as Kaa and Elba as Shere Khan who played the role brilliantly like a Tiger.

The film's CGI work also looks great and the use of 2 key songs from the animated film was a real treat that had me smiling from ear to ear but the storyline just didn't an awful lot for me, it tended to move very quickly from one scene to the next which does hurt some of the quieter scenes in the film and the film is also dark and dreary at times and I did see some squirming from the kids in my session which is not always a good sign.

And so that was the Jungle Book, its well made and performed but its story didn't do much for me, 2 and a half out of 5.

Film Review - The Huntsman Winters War (2016)

The Huntsman Winters War continues on from 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman and the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) must recover the Magic Mirror from the evil Ice Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) before she can use it to conquer the world but a mysterious woman from his past (Jessica Chastain) may turn up to complicate the quest.

The Huntsman Winters War is not the worst blockbuster I've seen but when I think about it there are 3 key problems I have with the film:

- The first is the really really generic sword and sorcery storyline on display here, elements of Game of Thrones, Frozen and Lord of the Rings are thrown together in a very haphazard kind of way that you just sit there feeling bored by it all as it begins to hit every little beat that the genre can sometimes pull off and when that happens you feel like your 2 steps ahead of the plot and after GOT and LOTR it's much harder for a fantasy show to really do something new in the genre.

- The second is the near complete waste of a wonderful cast consisting not only of Hemsworth, Chastain and Blunt but also Nick Frost, Sam Claflin (Finnick) and Charlize Theron and all of them don't really register a great performance, Blunt acts like she's about to turn into a Super Saiyan in one scene and then mumbles the majority of her lines, Theron goes way too OTT and sadly shows that her work in Mad Max Fury Road which was so good might have been a bright spark in a bad run and Chastain does her lines in a really off-putting Scottish accent and has little to no chemistry with Hemsworth.

As for Frost and Claflin well Claflin only has one scene and then that's it and Frost does his usual comedy stuff and I thought it worked for the most part while Hemsworth was fine again channeling that Mel Gibson esque quality he has but again his Scottish accent really put me off.

- And lastly the absence of Snow White from this story really hurts it as the Huntsman was a fine supporting character in the last film, she's briefly shown in the opening of the film but then nothing after that and I feel strongly that given the female oriented storyline that there was a key role for her to play but alas Kristen Stewart's casting and the off screen drama that came with the release of the previous film has most likely seen this happen and Universal has no one to blame but themselves for this as I'm certain they cast her due to her popularity at the time and now it's come back to haunt them.

And so that was Huntsman Winters War, again it's not bad but not great either and certainly not worth $15 at the cinema, 2 out of 5.