Venom proves to be a piece of toxic tripe

words fae Olivia Armstrong (@starcadet96)

This isn’t Venom’s first debut on the big screen, much to Sam Raimi’s dismay. Despite his personal dislike for the character, studio interference insisted that Raimi have him appear in his third installment of his original Spider-Man trilogy, despite the script already being full to bursting with characters and plotlines. As a result, the first cinematic debut of Venom in 2007 (played by Topher Grace) gets as little screen-time as was allowed and has almost no bearing on the whole film save for one fight scene at the end, which left many fans disappointed.                          

This is Sony’s third attempt at a Spider-Man property, as The Amazing Spider-Man series was cancelled after a mere two films, with Andrew Garfield playing the role and Sam Raimi’s original trilogy still being well-regarded but left on a sour note with many fans. Despite loaning the titular web-slinging hero out to Marvel and consequently being unable to use the character themselves, Sony still very much wants to make it known that they are clinging onto the rights to the Spider-Man universe like Uncle Ben on his death bed.                

Despite the fairly impressive effects of Venom in all his gooey glory, the first trailers didn’t do much to build hype for the film, with awkward editing and the inclusion of lines that were hard to believe were actually real (the infamous “turd in the wind” line has already reached meme status due to the disbelief that something so hilariously stupid was meant to be seen as a badass threat). Sony’s review embargo until October 2nd wasn’t a good look either, as it came off as a borderline admission from Sony that they were aware they had a stinker on their hands.

The first half hour of the film largely relegates itself to clunky exposition and establishing Eddie Brock as one the worst journalists in comic book film history. We learn that he has a hugely popular show and is regarded as an excellent investigative journalist. But that doesn’t seem to match up with what we see, as he talks over his interviewees, dresses like he slept in his car, doesn’t bother to fact check (to the point where in his opening interview with the corrupt corporate villain, he is corrected by the bad guy himself) and hacks into his girlfriend’s computer to find classified information and stupidly use it live on air right in front of the villain instead of doing any investigation of his own. This, of course, gets him fired and his girlfriend dumps him on the spot.

But things pick up when it’s revealed that alien organisms known as Symbiotes are being tested on human hosts by Carlton Drake (Riz Ahmed), who’s been using poor people and addicts as test subjects to see if he can give birth to a new superior race of alien-humans able to live in space. After being smuggled in by an employee who decides to trust him for some reason (despite previous establishment of him as a terrible journalist), the Symbiote known as Venom escapes and it turns out he and Eddie are a perfect match.

Tom Hardy is one of the most likeable and enjoyable actors working today, but even he has his limits and this film found them. Not to say that he is boring or uncomfortable. On the contrary, he makes what would be a bland and forgettable product into an insane buffet of ham and cheese through his performance. It’s a perfect combination of under-acting and extreme over-acting that brings us head-first into Nicolas Cage‘s Ghost Rider territory. Considering the rumours that large chunks of the film were cut (and it shows),  what they did decide to keep is strange, to say the least. There is even a moment in which he makes out with a sexy Venom. I’m sure there’s one guy out there rejoicing that the fanfiction he wrote while stoned one night was noticed by the films writers and put into the script on a dare.

While there are some intentional laughs in the film, the biggest ones are in the sheer clunky nature and badly-timed humour that’s so unfunny that it comes back around and gets a laugh. There’s even an end credits scene hinting at a cinematic universe, because all the cool studios have cinematic universes now and Sony just wants one so bad.

Venom is bad but it’s bad in a way I’d be eager to see more of. Fantastic Four (2015) had everything wrong with it but one of its biggest crimes was that it was duller than dishwater, with long stretches of boring dialogue and almost nothing happening for two hours. After a clunky start, Venom just never stops with its endless barrage of dumb and almost seems to revel in it.

I don’t think Sony is self-aware enough to know people are laughing at them rather than with them, but at the same time, any laughter is better than none at all. It takes a certain mindset to watch Venom and there’s no mistaking it for a good film, but if this is your kind of dumb, this might just be the turd in the wind for you.

The Golden Run Is Over: Solo Is Disney’s First Star Wars Dud

words fae olivia armstrong (@starcadet96)

Solo: A Star Wars Story is yet another side story in the Star Wars franchise after the success of Rouge One. However, this time it tells the story of fan favourite and fanboy self-insert of the franchise: Han Solo. Despite obviously making the money that Disney needed it to, there seemed to be a distinct lack of hype and epic scale of the release of this film, which is strange considering who it’s about. Even the marketing seems downplayed by Disney standards and it seems to be banking on its connection to the franchise to pull through. So the question is posed: is there any good here? Does it need to exist? How does it rank against the franchises other installments?

For as much as the complaints regarding the lack of need for a Han Solo movie, there is a fair amount of good choices to be found. For example, Donald Glover is a fantastic choice for Lando Calrissian and he deserves at least double the screen time that he has. His charisma oozes through the frame in every scene he’s in and it’s only once he appears that the story begins to pick up. The whole first act of the film really begins to drag but once he shows up, the new team finally begins to do what they set out to after failing the first time. He also has a droid co-pilot (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who is also a fun character, being a snarky, rebellious activist for equal rights for droids and most of her comedy comes from her snark with the other characters instead of being a joke herself like most of the other droids. Woody Harrelson is also a fun as Han Solo’s mentor/partner, although I always wonder if seeing him in these movies comes from a determination for him to be in every single sci-fi franchise war film ever.

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There is a fair amount of good wholesome fun, particularly in the last third with betrayals, backstabbing, double-crossing and character motivations changing and revealing new things. For example, Han’s relationship with his girlfriend throughout the film is rife with back-and-forth of what will come of it (as we all know from the future films that the relationship is doomed). There’s a surprise cameo from an unexpected iconic villain and the ending is one of the few parts to actually have some weight. However, most of this film is extremely light on story and character and while it is showing the past of Ham Solo, it does so in a way that doesn’t tell us a lot more about him and unfortunately a lot of that comes from the central performance. There are also points where the story drags and almost loses focus and it becomes a chore to sit through, even in parts that should be exciting. Even as a smaller story, the plot is so thin that what should be exciting, fun action becomes frustrating when they can’t just get from point A to point B already.

Sadly, Alden Ehrenreich in the titular role feels just miscast here. Despite clearly trying his best, he just doesn’t capture the attitude of Harrison Ford’s iconic portrayal of Han as being both the cool guy and a complete disaster who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. The understanding is that this portrayal of Han is as a more wide-eyed, excitable young thief before he became so jaded in A New Hope but even that feels distinctly off in this performance.

It’s not entirely his fault; some of the dialogue comes from writers desperately trying to capture what they think Harrison Ford would have said but Ehrenreich’s performance doesn’t enhance any of the material. Whatever interpretation of the character they’re going for, it just feels unconvincing and almost constantly reminds you that you’re watching an actor and not a character.

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Despite the moments mentioned earlier, the biggest downfall of Solo: A Star Wars Story is how completely inconsequential it is as a film and not just as a Star Wars film. While the “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” title card is shown, we get no iconic Star Wars text scrawl explaining the setting and building the hype. Instead, we get a few screenshots of exposition and then the film just starts. It almost feels like an admission from the creators that they know you don’t really need to watch this. And that’s the biggest tragedy of the film; for all it’s fun and occasional tense moments, there’s absolutely no grand scale to the presentation. Rogue One, for all its faults, took its smaller story and gave some weight to the build-up of what was to come in in the later films and did have some incredibly memorable moments (especially the scene with Darth Vadar). Star Wars, even when it’s bad or divisive, is almost always memorable and the biggest tragedy of Solo is how much it doesn’t square up to that.

The bland moments don’t come close to the enjoyably bad cringe-fest of Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones while the fun moments still can’t compete with the fun and excitement of defeating the empire in Return of the Jedi. On top of that, there’s absolutely no risk factor in the decision making and it’s as safe as film-making can possibly get. Say what you want about The Last Jedi (that request is rhetorical; I’ve heard far too damn much about what people have to say about The Last Jedi) but it and The Empire Strikes back took some of the most daring risks in the franchise and succeeded in fuelling fan discussions for years. There’s so little of the spirit and mythology of Star Wars in Solo that it feels like any sci-fi space universe (the Force isn’t even mentioned a single time).

So, where does that leave Solo: A Star Wars Story?

I’d say only see if you’re a die-hard Stars Wars fan or if you or your kids just want a cute space adventure that doesn’t require too much thinking. Aside from that though, I sadly can’t say this instalment of the franchise will leave its mark on the galaxy.

Jake’s Movie Picks #3

words by jake cordiner (@jjjjaketh)

Alex Garland has done it again.

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Yer auld da and one of them piles of paper with words.

I’ve been intrigued about Annihilation since the first trailer dropped a while back, so Intrigued I bought the book (written by Jeff VanderMeer) and read it almost straight away. It was excellent. So I decided, I was going to go into the film adaption as blindly as someone who had just read the fucking book it was based on can and I’m glad I did because Annihilation is a masterpiece.

Alex Garland’s film goes at its own pace. The story beats are there, but they’re warped. Mangled, rearranged (you get the idea). This is a VERY unconventional piece of work. It’s smart, and it knows it is, but it doesn’t spoon feed the audience with shitty exposition and the like. Who knew people didn’t need to be treated like fucking morons to understand relatively highbrow concepts?! Truly a revelation in itself, and a long overdue one.

Annihilation is one of the most striking films I’ve ever seen. The imagery is utterly bonkers. From the designs of the copious amounts of fauna and wildlife to the more urban looking backdrops, everything pops out of the screen and screams “LOOK AT ME THEN LOOK AT THAT THEN LOOK OVER THERE!”. That being said, it never once gets overbearing, and Garland and the VFX team knew when the perfect times to be subdued were.

I suppose I should discuss what I can of the plot without spoiling anything. Something happens at a lighthouse that causes a phenomena coined “The Shimmer” to develop and begin expanding quick. A few teams have gone in, and barely any of them have came out. One of the people who did return from The Shimmer was Kane (played by the ever fantastic Oscar Isaac). He happens to be the husband of protagonist Lena, who volunteers to be a part of an all-female team to venture into The Shimmer and find the source of the chaos. That is basically as deep as I can go without spoiling anything, but let me tell you right now my friends you are in for a hell of a ride.

The cast of Annihilation is pitch perfect. Jennifer Jason Leigh is great as the secretive Dr. Ventress, Tessa Thompson impresses as always as the innocent and inquisitive Josie and Gina Rodriguez is fantastically unhinged as Anya. But this is indisputably Natalie Portman’s film. Her performance as Lena is fucking solid gold baby. She sells the effects that The Shimmer has on the human psyche wonderfully, playing action hero one minute and almost having a full blown panic attack the next. The range Portman shows is truly brilliant. If 2016’s “Jackie” kicked off the, ugh, Portmanassaince, then Annihilation solidifies it as “Thing That Is Definitely Occurring”. Can’t wait to see what she does next.

I truly do want to cast a critical eye over this film and point out any flaws, but for the life of me, I can’t think of any. This movie is quite simply put a triumph on every front. A scary, sharp, Lovecraftian nightmare that in one moment permafucks your brain into submission and in the next massages your eyes to near ecstasy. The acting is brilliant. The cinematography and direction is brilliant. The score is brilliant… motherfucker this is a 10/10 film.

It’s remarkable that this even got made, but goddamn it all am I glad it did. See this film as soon as you can, I simply cannot recommend it enough.

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How “The Best Worst Film Ever Made” Resulted In One Of 2017’s Top Movies

By Liv Armstrong (@starcadet96)

It’s hard to overstate the cult following Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 film The Room would receive in wake of its release. It made $1800 on opening night, compared to the over $6 million Wiseau himself mysteriously was able to put into the film budget. The entire cast and crew were convinced no one would ever see it. And why wouldn’t they? The Room is often (affectionately) referred to by many of its fans as “the best worst movie ever made”. It not only defies the laws of film-making, it renders them completely irrelevant. Entire scenes have no effect on the plot. The dialogue is beyond bizarre. Every line is wrong.

And at the centre of it is one of the most bizarre performances to ever grace the screen by one of the most indescribable men; Tommy Wiseau himself. For years, fans have been speculating and theorising about both the film’s production and the man himself; what could have happened to give us the result seen in the final product?

Then The Disaster Artist was published, a tell-all memoir by Greg Sestero, who played Mark in the film and worked closely with Wiseau during and before production. He is also possibly Wiseau’s only close friend. It revealed that the making of the film was every bit as bizarre as the film itself and this film adaptation by James Franco brings to life the story of the friendship between the two that began in an acting class and ended with one of the most unlikely independent film success stories in movie history.

Upon their meeting, neither one could be more different to each other; Greg (played by Dave Franco) is a young, attractive yet extremely shy aspiring actor who doesn’t have the confidence to let go and show his abilities to the class. Tommy (played by James Franco) is older (despite what he claims) and fearless in achieving his ambitions to become a great actor. The only problem is that he is also completely terrible at it. They do have one thing in common though; no one seems to give them a chance.

Greg is inspired by Tommy’s ambition, even if the rest of the class is completely baffled by it. After some misadventures and a promise that they’ll make it together, it leads the two to Los Angeles where they try to make it in the movies. However, neither of come close to their big break, especially Tommy who is crushed by the reality of the situation. It comes to a head when Tommy is ready to give up and Greg is also disheartened. “Wish we could just make our own movie,” he says. Tommy turns to him slowly. “That’s great idea,” he replies. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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James Franco’s direction takes an almost documentary-style approach to film, with the camera often shaking slightly and close framing. It works to the effect of feeling like a behind-the-scenes feature during the production. As Wiseau, it is important to understand his desire to capture the spirit of the man rather than an exact-life portrayal. The voice is spot-on and it’s very easy to imagine the real Tommy in many of these scenes and scenarios. But what is most impressive is the dramatic scenes between him and Greg, in which he switches between being sympathetic and embarrassing in seconds. It would have been easier but much less effective to simply focus on his strange afflictions and mannerisms which are infamous to anyone familiar with him. 

However, Franco’s portrayal emphasises the comedy and sympathy of the man; he isn’t simply a joke or a figure to be mocked. He is a real person (despite some people’s theories to the contrary) with some extreme eccentricities and his friendship with Greg is ripe with cringe comedy. But his desire for both him and Greg to become huge film stars because Greg is the only person he views as a friend is completely genuine and it forms the heart of the film between the uncomfortably hilarious journey for the two to make their own movie.

In one scene, one of the crew muses on the idea that the film is autobiographical for Wiseau; that someone broke his heart and he feels like the world is against him. While we don’t delve into any of Tommy’s mysterious past simply because no one, not even Greg Sestero, knows the truth of his origins, it’s easy to look at Tommy and Greg’s relationship and see some parallels that show up in the script Tommy produces. In the plot of The Room, Lisa cheats on Johnny (played by Wiseau) constantly with his best friend Mark, causing Johnny’s infamous declaration of “Everybody betray me! I fed up with this world!” As Greg begins to receive more acting opportunities and enters a stable relationship with his girlfriend, leading to his declaration to Tommy that he is moving in with her, Tommy is angry and terrified at the thought of Greg moving on without him. The tension between Tommy and the cast and crew of the film leads to paranoia on Tommy’s part, spying on them behind the scenes and believing they are all conspiring against him – “betraying” him, if you will.

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When the premiere finally arrives and the time comes for the screening, the reaction is exactly would anyone familiar with The Room would expect. At first, Tommy is devastated, seeing his script and film that he believed he put his heart and soul into not receiving the reaction he expected. But Greg tells him to stop and listen to what is actually happening – they’re happy. They love the film. Even if it wasn’t the way he wanted, Wiseau had created something no one had ever seen before. It’s a surprisingly warm end and leaves with a good feeling, especially considering much of the cringe comedy and sympathy for Greg as well as the cast and crew of the film over Tommy’s antics.

While it may not have been the way he envisioned, Tommy Wiseau created something completely unique and original to the world of pop culture. Reading the book and viewing this film, it’s sometimes hard to like him. His vision is misguided. His friendship with Greg, however genuine, could be seen as toxic. He treated the cast and crew of the film terribly. He did every single thing wrong and was a complete pain in the ass at times. But at the same time, it’s hard not to admire what he accomplished. It’s possible to see in him what Greg saw at the beginning of the film; a man who may not be following any kind of rules of filmmaking but just went and did it anyway. His fearlessness and blind belief in his ability (or lack thereof) led him to technically follow his dreams. And in the end, he did make something meaningful to a lot of people. The film’s cult fanbase speaks for itself. Many of them dress up as the characters, can quote every line and scene and the midnight screenings sell out in an instant. Simply saying “Oh, hai Mark,” is enough to send many of them into hysterics. And that’s a kind of magic that can’t be defined.

The Disaster Artist is a hilarious, genuine and surprisingly delicate look at one of the most beloved and bizarre success stories in film-making history. Whether we’ll ever see another film that reaches the cult magnitude of The Room in our lifetimes remains to be seen. But one thing is clear: there will never be anything else quite like it. It’s one of a kind and James Franco’s retelling of its origins brings the laughs and the heart of how two unlikely friends ended up conquering the world of cult cinema.

Is Thor: Ragnarok The Most Fun Marvel Film Yet?

By Dominic Cassidy (@lyre_of_apollo)

Ragnarok, the third in the solo Thor movies, is by far the best. With What We Do in the Shadows actor and director Taika Waititi at the helm, the movie benefits from having an experienced funny man in charge of things, as aside from being good (thoroughly quite excellent) it is fun. It is the only adjective that comes to mind; the movie is funny, smart and uses the actors to fantastic lengths.

To say the previous Thor films have come short is putting it lightly: the first one was kind of nondescript, feeling really small scale and The Dark World felt too overtly serious a solo romp for a character that is the real comic relief in the Avengers movies. Thankfully, Ragnarok gives the viewer no fear that there will be much in the way of Schindler’s List level seriousness.

The tone of the movie is absolutely perfect throughout, adjusting just enough to fit, while keeping a comfortable goofiness. In this sense, the set design is really just perfect, especially in some of the more exotic locations. It really harks back to the whole 80’s marvel celestials stuff, mad bright colours and random circuits drawn on things, makes the movie just so pretty that you’d be hard-pressed to take your eyes off it.

Story-wise, Ragnarok isn’t anything super unique or that deep but without the pressure of being final or important (i.e Avengers), it definitely had a more, setting up vibe, like a comic book getting ready to go into a big series wide event; which on the way to Infinity War’s release is really refreshing.

One thing that ought to be commended for the movie is the actors: Chris Hemsworth absolutely nails the boisterous thunder god and seems really relaxed in the role, just having fun with it. It did feel at points uncomfortable to be seeing Loki on screen again, but Tom Hiddleston’s performance as the trickster god really makes you forgot misgivings as he and his onscreen brother bounce off one another so well.

As always, Jeff Goldblum is absolutely fantastic as the eccentric Grandmaster, bringing a kind of Ralph Fiennes M. Gustave panache to the roll. It would have been nice however to see more development with Cate Blanchett’s Hela as sadly, she just comes across as a nondescript big bad.

Being a superhero movie, the action scenes are fantastic, off the cuff, using CGI very well, and while it may not be photorealistic, it does lend to the very comic book style the movie seems to have, and moves away from something that has plagued the bigger Marvel movies – a problem of being too serious at times, and giving the fight scenes interesting venues.

Finally, while the move is nothing new, the sheer sense of fun at play here definitely makes it one of the better Marvel movies. With the main cast bouncing off of one another so well, it is just sad this sort of thing couldn’t have been carved out for the Norse hero sooner. Hopefully, after the unprecedented success of the more comedic ventures like Guardians of the Galaxy and Ragnarok, this fun practice becomes more of the norm from the folk at Marvel.

rating 7

Is Gerald’s Game The Best Stephen King Adaptation Yet?

By Olivia Armstrong (@starcadet96)

2017 seems to have been the ultimate year for Stephen King adaptations: even taking the hugely successful adaptation of IT out of the picture, this year there have been both two other films and two tv series based on his works. Of the TV series, we have the The Mist and 1922 (releasing in October), both on Netflix. On the film side, we have Dark Tower (which sadly not even the charm of Idris Elba could save) and Gerald’s Game, another Netflix adaption by Mike Flanagan (who has received acclaim in the horror scene with his work on films such as Hush and Oujia: Origin of Evil).

Out of all the Stephen King stories to adapt, this one has to be one of the most difficult to execute. First off, it doesn’t contain most of King’s associated tropes; there are no supernatural elements and even though there is a mystery concerning a hidden character, it is not revealed until the very end. The terror of Gerald’s Game comes solely from the premise – when husband and wife, Jessie (Clara Gugino) and Gerald (Bruce Greenwood), drive to a remote retreat to rekindle their marriage, an attempt to eroticise their sex life goes awry when Jessie is handcuffed with both hands to the bedpost and the two descend into argument over their broken marriage.

However, when Gerald suddenly dies leaving Jessie still handcuffed to the bed with no means of escape, the terror of Jessie predicament becomes heartbreakingly clear. As she begins to dehydrate, her wrists begin to weaken while screaming for help as her husband is slowly being eaten by a stray dog with its eyes set on her, her mind forcing her to face her own demons lurking in her past that led her to where she is now.

The difficultly of this adaptation should be clear; the majority of the story takes place on one room and one location, with little variation save for the ending and flashbacks to Jessie’s childhood. The emphasis on the feeling of being trapped in one place while losing your mind with your body growing weaker is conveyed though the performance Clara Gugino. It cannot be emphasised enough how much of this film lies on her shoulders. She is essentially giving a one-woman show of acting and the range she goes through in less than two hours is incredible. Bruce Greenwood is also solid as the titular Gerald; speaking through Jessie’s subconscious to appear as if he were in front of her.

While the premise may sound rather far-fetched at first-glance, the cringing realism of the situation Jessie is in is beyond terrifying. The handcuff keys and Gerald’s phone are too far away to reach. The handcuffs are too tight to slip out. Her mind is playing tricks on her as she watches her husband being eaten alive, then forced to recount repressed childhood memories that she locked away years ago. It’s less of a traditional horror and more of an intense character study, which is one of my favourite forms of horror. Mike Flanagan once again proves himself a true talent; the writing and simple yet claustrophobic setting forces us to experience exactly what Jessie is experiencing while also allowing us to see her at her most vulnerable and self-loathing, creating a character almost impossible to not empathise with.

If I had to compare it to any other King adaption, it would be Misery. Both stories have a similar premise of a character being trapped and forced to survive through method of escape. As well as that, they both feature scenes that are absolutely cringe-inducing due to the realism of the pain. In Misery’s case it was the infamous hobbling scene, in which Annie Wilkes brutally breaks both of the main characters ankles with a sledgehammer. In Gerald’s Game, it’s the method in which Jessie eventually tries to escape. I’m not squeamish in the slightest and generally have no problem with violent or gory imagery and yet I found myself peeking through my fingers and trying not to look. The scene is so visceral, it’s borderline nauseating while still technically featuring less violence than many recent horror films.

Horror is subjective, that cannot be overstated. Fear is one of the most diverse emotions we all can experience; fear of monsters, ghosts, home invasions, sounds creaking in the dark. But Gerald’s Game takes us back to one of the most primal and realistic fears we can imagine; being trapped with no way out and being forced to confront your own self in order to escape. It ranks up with IT (2017) as one of the best Stephen King adaptations to date and possibly ever. The fear and catharsis is palpable in every scene and an acting masterclass from Clara Gugino elevates it into truly something special. 

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde

By Dominic V Cassidy (@Lyre_of_Apollo)

Atomic Blonde is the latest project courtesy of director and stuntman David Leitch, who’s directing Deadpool 2, and gave an uncredited directorial assist on the kinetic John Wick.  With this in mind, and the fact the unequivocally bad-ass Charlize Theron is playing the titular yellow haired spy, the viewer best have their seat belt at the ready for the sheer roller-coaster of fucking insanity that comes after the funky (and perfectly violent) set up, the tempo and energy just keep going up and up and up and so on.

Mentioned above, Charlize Theron takes the lead as the MI6 intelligence officer Lorraine Broughton, who heads to Berlin during the cold war to track down the usual “fate of the world” sort of classic spy McGuffin, seen in Bond movies for decades. It is to this effect that the story of Atomic Blonde is not anything special, it is however a thrilling, action packed, carnage ride; filled to the brim with excellent set pieces, it feels like the story is really going out of its way to create these opportunities.

The characters, while somewhat playing into classic archetypes, do flip roles quite a bit creating a sense of dread and excitement. There is a plot thread that, if you are keen on problem solving or spy flicks, you might see coming, but the sheer insanity of it makes for brilliant viewing.

There must be a loud round of applause for the cast which does feel slightly ensemble – there’s never a face on screen you don’t recognize, with John Goodman and Toby Jones making great wee appearances on the fringes of the story. Charlize Theron, while not delivering a career defining performance in the action film, does play her part extremely well, showing great devotion to the role, especially in the physical sense, doing many of her own stunts. The way she plays her character shows a femme fatale style character as the protagonist, which is refreshing giving a nice edge to the movie.

However, James McAvoy steals the screen whenever the camera mans no looking. His portrayal of a more morally ambiguous station manager in Berlin, again for MI6, is spot on. His slow burning menace is definitely reminiscent of Split, and honestly, after showcasing his darker side, it’s nice to see more of it, and his acting ability is very much welcomed in this already star studded cast.

Now this is one of the most crucial points to be made on Atomic Blonde: it is a fucking gorgeous movie. There. The cinematography is perfectly thought out, giving it an edge on the other movies of its kind. Where Bourne’s camera is shaky in fight scenes, Atomic Blonde’s is steady and tracking the point and punctuation of each movement perfectly, where it could be argued Wick was neon in its colour scheme, the use of colours in Atomic Blonde, is so smooth, so subtle, that if it wasn’t so delightful the viewer would hardly notice. The colours are something that really catch the eye, and should be looked out for in the movie.

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And where would an action movie be without the actual action? A completely different destination from where Atomic Blonde has ended up, the action, and fight choreography in this movie really is of the highest calibre. Including one fight scene towards the climax of the feature which is honestly quite fantastic to behold, the seemingly realistic way blows are exchanged and the absolute lethality of Theron in her movements is reminiscent of the hallway hammer brawl of Oldboy, and really puts this as a rival to some of the fight movies like The Raid, or the Bourne movies fight scenes. The music as well is perfectly pitched for the movie, tunes like 99 Red Luftballoons, Blue Monday, and various other 80’s bangers are out in full force, and make this seem much more light hearted an experience than it is and has any right being.

While Atomic Blondes story is by no means Shakespearean, it gets the job done; but while you are experiencing a somewhat commonplace spy thriller, you won’t care. You’ll be watching a beautiful movie, with perfect fight scenes, amazing use of colour, and a fantastic sound track. The film does nothing especially new, but what does, it does with the care and utmost precision of a master. A strong contender for the best recent Bond movie.

8/10

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Film Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

By Rory McArthur (@RoryMeep)

The rebooted Planet of the Apes franchise has always been an outlier in terms of modern blockbusters. Ghostbusters, Power Rangers, Ghost in the Shell; all recent attempts to revive classic properties, and all, for better or for worse, critical and commercial failures. By all rights, POTA should have followed the same path, but instead it forged its own. Revelling in a slightly less bombastic approach to the summer blockbuster, each movie has genuine heart and soul in abundance, and the concluding chapter of the trilogy is no different. Set around 2 years after the events of Dawn, War sees Caesar and his apes locked in a battle for survival against a rogue band of soldiers, led by Woody Harrelson’s unhinged Colonel. Part revenge tale, part dystopian sci-fi, part biblical epic, War truly is a marvel.

Right from the opening battle scene, you know you’re in for a different sort of ride than before. Set deep inside a forest, the tension is palpable as a group of human soldiers branded ‘monkey killer’ and ‘endangered species’ stalk an ape stronghold. Vietnam comparisons are unavoidable as characters desperately drag themselves through the mud and dirt, making for a visceral and immediately enthralling introduction to this final chapter.

But the battles are not the focus of the film, not by any stretch. Soon enough, Caesar and his closest companions break off from the larger group of apes and set off themselves, trading the wild forests of the film’s opening for a cold, isolated environment up in the mountains. It is here they encounter the mute child, Nova, played wonderfully by Amiah Miller, and Steve Zahn’s Bad-Ape. Both are welcome additions to the cast, but it is Nova in particular who shines. She shares more than a few hard-hitting moments with our ape protagonists, reminding us that this war is a complex beast, where both sides are painted in various shades of grey. Such moments are where the film truly shines, overshadowing the later action scenes with ease.

A much bleaker movie than its predecessors, we see darker shades of our characters than ever before. Caesar, by his own admission, is becoming more and more like Koba, the hate filled ape who began the conflict with humans in earnest in Dawn. As his own hate begins to take hold, he is forced to grapple with not only the threat the humans pose, but with how his actions have brought those he loves into danger. And it makes for incredibly compelling viewing. This is, in no small part, due to another stellar performance from Andy Serkis. His motion capture imbues his characters struggle with so much emotional nuance, that the image of a CG chimpanzee totally melts away, and we’re simply left with an incredible actor, giving an incredible performance, inhabiting an incredible character.

As such, the humans are also forced to take on a new level of darkness. Harrelson’s Colonel represents the first time the human lead in the series has been the out-and-out antagonist, but his character is much more complex than that of a ‘villain’. In the mould of Koba before him, you understand the Colonel’s motivations. Like Caesar, he is simply fighting to survive, and in his own head, his crueller actions are totally justified in the name of saving his species. By the time his arc draws to a close, you can’t help but feel some sympathy for the guy, and at the start of the film, that’s the last thing you would have expected.

Unfortunately, where the film falls down slightly is with its climax. The trailers and marketing teased a big, final confrontation between the apes and the humans, and this just doesn’t materialise. It didn’t necessarily have to, but the third act action scenes we get in its place do seem, at times, a little anti-climactic and overly reliant on coincidence. Without spoiling anything, the apes are, in a way, reduced to secondary players in their own struggle, and although the thematic resonance is there, and its makes for some potential social commentary, many will undoubtedly feel like another route could have been taken plot wise.

Flawed but ultimately satisfying, this finale is as emotionally resonant and satisfying as we all hoped it would be. While not quite reaching the heights of Dawn, War still stands on its own as a fantastically brutal epic of biblical proportions. The titular war has become more complex than ever, and while we stay rooting for the apes, the overall horrors of conflict remain the main takeaway from the action. And it is this level of complexity that makes these films great. Sure they have CGI apes punching each other, and large-scale action set pieces and all that jazz, but ultimately they’re films about what it means to be human, and the way Matt Reeves has chosen to explore that theme is a true wonder to behold.

8/10


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Is Baywatch (2017) Really That Bad?

By Fraser Nunn (@badknitbear)

Baywatch. It’s one of those Nostalgia bait movies that Hollywood keeps spewing out. If only they did it justice. With a few in jokes and cameos to keep a vague sense of connection, there’s little else.

There are a few good reasons to watch Baywatch and a few good reasons not to! If you walk in to the cinema looking for boobs and butts and muscles galore well then you’ve found your film.  10/10. Must see. Honestly the first 120 or so minutes, (it might be shorter but time kinda slowed down) were just gratuitous shots of Zac Efron and The Rock’s bouncing pectorals. (I know his name is Dwayne Johnson but I’m going to call him The Rock because it’s still real to me damnit!)

I went in to the film with this looming sense of fear that I would have to slate one of my greatest childhood heroes and I think that this mentality probably saved the film for me. It’s by no means a film to take seriously. One standout feature of the film that should draw in a good few punters is the barrage of names that The Rock’s Mitch Buchanan throws at Efron’s character Wonderboy, Matt Brody. This also throws out one of the best jokes in the film, a sly 4th inside joke for the audience digging into Zac’s High School Musical beginnings.

Don’t get me wrong, there are a few good jokes throughout and the general feeling of the film was pretty positive. The story made sense, and gave decent character development, but let’s me serious, you didn’t go to see Baywatch expecting an emotional performance by Zac Efron or Dwayne Johnson. The films spends an elongated amount of time on one severely stretched out joke: a penis joke. Honestly, it just becomes uncomfortable. I get that stretching a joke out can sometimes make it funnier, but there are also times when it definitely kills the joke, and this is probably one of those times.

One of the vague standouts of the film was the comic relief (honestly you know they’re really struggling when a film billed as an action comedy has a comic relief character). Played by Jon Bass, he’s wacky and kinda funny and he pulls off the over the top character he’s playing and it does work in this situation. As for the over the top action sequences, they’re a bit shaky and wobbly and not great. But honestly I can’t tar the whole film with the same brush because although the end was bizarre and WAAAAAAAY over the top, The Rock has a damn fine fight scene in a kids bedroom which also provides two more of the best jokes in the film.

As a whole the film works as a stupid daft nonsense film you go see when there’s nothing else on and you fancy throwing away some cash. Or as a movie you throw on in the background when you fancy a ‘quiet night in’. From Baywatch I’ve learned that I want more Rock-Efron bromance/frenemies movies. They work as a duo and they bounce off eachother well. But with an underutilized group of secondary characters, and over the top attempts at action and comedy it’s hard to see this film as anything better than average.

5/10


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Captain America: Civil War REVIEW

When news got out that Civil War got greenlit due to Batman Vs Superman, a film that was as dull as it was messy, it wasn’t a surprise that many grew worried about the reality of this massive clash of clans. Not only is the film a sequel to the Marvel magnum opus Winter Soldier but it’s also a successor to the rather disappointing Age Of Ultron.

In addition to this, there’s also the film’s duty to introduce new characters as well as set things up for future installments in the MCU and somehow, whether it’s due to some infinity gem or the Russo brothers natural talent, Civil War manages to do all of this and more, managing to be just as enthralling as its predecessors and then some.

Having the Avengers fight amongst themselves isn’t anything new but it’s never been on this kind of scale. With The Avengers now being seen as dangerous whilst ungoverned, due to events in previous films as well as those in Civil War, the team is now split into two: Team Cap which feels that the Avengers should stay independent and Team Iron Man who supports the government oversight.

The story, for what it’s trying to achieve, isn’t overly complex and has a surprisingly good flow despite the 2hr 27 min run time, managing to establish the motivations of both teams superbly. Often you’ll find your allegiance fluctuating, despite tweeting how you were #TeamCap or #TeamIronMan religiously beforehand, making the film just as engaging as you’d have expected.

Civil War 1

Thankfully there’s no MacGuffin, an issue that I covered in my rant on the MCU, though the “villain” isn’t much of an improvement. While he has some well established motivation rather than just being evil, unlike Lex Luthor in BVS, it feels like the character of Zemo, one with a very interesting backstory, could have been best kept for a future installment due to his minimal involvement in the film.

Civil War is also full of emotion due to the conflict ignited by Bucky Barnes whose past is the catalyst for a lot of action which this film does perfectly. The big clash at an Airport Terminal is undoubtedly the best set piece ever conceived in the MCU which I refuse to spoil due to some pretty surprising elements. Just make sure to pick your jaw up from off the floor afterwards.

Civil War 2

The highlight of the film for me were the introduction of two major characters, the first being Black Panther. Having never made a big screen appearance before, he didn’t disappoint on his debut and left the audience desperate for his big solo venture in 2018. No doubt we’ll get some more info about his origins which may or may not differ from the comics but regardless, the Prince of Wakanda looked badass as fuck.

Then there’s the elephant or, rather, Spider in the room. Yes, the web slinger makes his MCU debut and oh my god. Never before has there been such a faithful adaptation of Spiderman before now as Tom Holland manages to manifest the awkward, teen charisma for his time as Peter Parker but then hits out with his quick witted jibes that had the whole cinema laughing out loud.

Civil War 2

Surprisingly he has a lot more screen time than I expected and may have even had more lines of dialogue than Superman in BVS! Marvel may have messed with beloved characters before but this iteration of Spiderman more than makes up for that.

While the film isn’t perfect by any means, the first half feels a bit sluggish from time to time, Civil War goes some way in combating the fatigue many face when it comes to superhero films. What we have here is a film that asks questions but doesn’t forget what should be the main focus of these films: having fun.

~

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