Kingsman: The Golden Circle review

I am late to the party on this one but I finally got out to see the sequel to the original  Kingsman which is one of my favourite movies in recent years. I was looking forward to what they could do with a sequel and had my fingers crossed it could live up to the high standard it’s predecessor set.

Kingsman 2 picks up where the last film finished and dives straight into the action. The start really does give you a taste of what the entire film is going to be, action packed and fast pace. This breathless start gets you back into the Kingsman world and reminded me of the style and flair that director Matthew Vaughn is known for.

Every shot is colourful and use of slow mo and zooming whilst the camera changes angles  within the action scenes is such a unique technique that it stands out straight away. It really is unlike anything  else I’ve seen in film since the last Kingsman film. Where in the first one I felt it was used with restraint, this time the technique is thrown at you again and again, which caused it to lose a bit of the impact it could have. Every action scene uses it, and it got a bit tired by the end for me.

Whilst the action did grow a little tired for me, the gadgets and weaponry are all brilliantly over the top and it is great fun seeing what crazy things the filmmakers have come up with this time. They take the James Bond gadget gimmick and take it to extremes which parody the legendary spy series and pay respects to it at the same time.

Plot wise, there isn’t a great deal to be said. The antagonist fulfils almost the exact same role as the previous film, this time with Julianne Moore in the role in the place of Samuel L Jackson. This is one area where the film struggle to live up to its predecessor, with Moore giving a decent but unremarkable performance. Sam Jackson was so brilliantly weird in the last film that this time round I felt we just got a standard villian with a similar plan as the last one, but without the same magnetic charisma Jackson brought to the first one.

Taron Edgerton returns as Eggsy and although there isn’t any real arc for the character, he’s still great in the role. Colin Firth returns alongside Mark Strong, and the latter of those stole the film for me. Channing Tatum, Hale Berry, Jeff Bridges and Pedro Pascal (Oberyn from Game of Thrones) join them as the Statesmen, essentially the American version of the Kingsmen. They are all solid even if I did feel like some parts were thrown in to set up a potential spin-off “Statesmen” film.

What we have here is a sequel that repeats the previous instalments 2nd and 3rd acts. Where the first Kingsman had us spend time.with Eggsy training and watching him.grow through the mistakes he makes, this time round he’s a undeniable badass from start to finish, and the stakes never really seem that high. The decision to bring Colin Firth back was an odd one, as the plot didn’t need him, and I think that may have been a move to get people back in rather than really to serve the purpose of the story, as I feel the films events could have played out the same without him in it.

Verdict

Kingsman The Golden Circle delivers up a tonne of good action and entertaining scenes, but without the surprise factor of the original, and with the heightened expectations placed on it, I think it fails to deliver on the promise of the franchise. It’s not a bad film by any stretch, it just isn’t half as memorable as the first.

6/10 – Solid but nothing new to see here.

Thor Ragnarok Review

I finally managed to get back to the cinema after a busy time and a trip away, and when I went online to book a ticket for tonight to see Thor was out I was really excited to see it as i thought it came out next week. The trailer for this put a huge grin on my face with how fun the film looked, and hoped the film could replicate that throughout. 

As every critic seems to have been saying so far, the film keeps that smile on your face the whole time and it’s extremely fun. I have not laughed this much in a Marvel film since the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Director Taika Waititi’s pushes his sense of humour all over the movie and whilst the light and jokey tone clash a little with the severity of the events of the plot, I find it hard to believe anyone would watch this movie and not enjoy the laughs.

The tone clashing with the storyline is an issue for me, as i do think that the issues dealt with should have held more weight considering the ramifications it could have on the wider MCU going forward. The light tone made it feel like everything was going fine even in moments that i felt should have been a bit more perilous for the protagonists.

Speaking of the protagonists, Chris Hemsworth returns for a fifth time as the titular character and he continues to improve. The Thor character has developed over the last few years and this movie really allows Hemsworth to let his own personality and comedic style show through in the character. In the first film Thor was very much a rigid, serious character who had moments of humour, now that balance is very much weighted towards the humorous side.

Tom Hiddleston returns and continues his perfect track record of being one of the most interesting and entertaining characters in the entire MCU. Mark Ruffalo’s gives us probably the best one screen showing of Hulk, with more personality than we’ve ever seen. The rest of the supporting cast all match up to the tone, with Tessa Thompson and Jeff Goldblum being particularly memorable. The stand out supporting character for me is Korg, who is voiced by the director Taika Waititi, which was an unexpectedly great part of the film.

Cate Blanchett plays antagonist Hela, and she is certainly not bad in the role. She doesn’t have many dimensions to her character, and i thought there was more that could have been done given her origins that are mentioned in the film. It’s another case of the villain being the weakest character in a Marvel film, and it is causing a little concern for Avengers Infinity War next year, a film that hinges on the villain being intimidating and actually threatening the heroes. Hela fulfils the role of the antagonist in the film.

The action, yes it has taken me most of the review to get to mentioning the action in a superhero movie, is superb. There are some scenes that are just astounding to watch and unbelievably beautiful just to look at. One scene in particular is like a moving painting, unlike anything i have seen before.

Verdict

The majority of the jokes hit the mark, and the action provides something new, both making Thor Ragnarok is a genuinely great time in the cinema. The tone not allowing for any real seriousness does detract from the film for me. With the serious looking Black Panther and the epic Avengers Infinity War on the horizon in 2018, a light hearted romp with Thor could be just what we need. Also, Led Zeppelin’s  Immigrant Song is used terrifically. I just didn’t know where to fit that in the review.

8/10 – Thor Ragna-rocks. 

The Hitman’s Bodyguard Review

The Hitman’s Bodyguard is a film that, on paper, is perfect for me. Two charismatic actors with good chemistry in an action movie with lots of quips and jokes throughout. Going in I was hoping to be entertained but was curious about the plot and the rest of the film. 

The first thing you have to say about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is that the chemistry you hope for between Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds is there. They bounce off each other brilliantly and they are easily the best part of the film. Ryan Reynolds keeps his character grounded enough to stop it becoming a Deadpool copycat which to be honest I wouldn’t have minded too much considering how much I loved him in that role. He is so good at the quick one liners and comedic elements he can make anything watchable.

It’s a very good job him and an on form Sam Jackson are in this as the rest of the film really struggles. The only other part that holds up at all is the action, which considering the director’s last movie is one of the Expendables franchise you would expect no less. Some slightly iffy special effects can be forgiven for what is a smaller budget film and the action is fun to watch when it happens.

That is all the good that the Hitman’s Bodyguard has to offer, and whilst it is entertaining the film has a number of issues. First of all the plot is anything but compelling, with a Belarusian dictator played by Gary Oldman (more on him in a second) on trial for war crimes and the Hitman played by Sam Jackson has a file that is needed for this trial to convict him. Of course, being an eastern european dictator, Gary Oldman has a number of his own hitmen out to stop Jackson reaching the court in Holland. The plot is laid out early on, then largely forgotten for long periods of the film. It serves as a reason for Jackson and Reynolds to be on their crazy road trip but it lacks any degree of subtlety.

Now I love thoroughly appreciate him Gary Oldman’s work, from his role in Harry Potter as Sirius Black, to his picture perfect Jim Gordon in the Dark Knight. He is rumoured to be in with a shout at an oscar win this year, and im glad because he is a fine actor. That all being said, he is terrible in this film. The accent he put on disappears when he raises his voice above a certain level, there is no motivations behind why he appears to be doing these terrible things. I do not understand why you would get a talent like him and tell him to play the most generic bad guy you could imagine with no depth for him to explore. This goes down as one where he was just cashing his cheque.

The other supporting cast are scattered through the film, with only really Salma Hayek being memorable in any way. Despite her being fun to watch, her character has literally no reason to be in the movie. Elodie Yung is a thousand times better in Daredevil and the Defenders than her character here allows her to be, although she does do well with what is another poorly fleshed out character.

Verdict

The strangest thing about The Hitman’s Bodyguard is that despite its obvious flaws and knowing it is not a good movie, I still had quite a laugh watching it. This is a testament to the chemistry and charisma of Samuel L Jackson and Ryan Reynolds. Without them, this would be a terrible film. With them, it’s just below average with some fun moments scattered throughout.

4/10 – 2 points each for Jackson and Reynolds.

 

Death Note (The Movie) Review

As a big fan of the anime series, I was genuinely intrigued how they would adapt the series for a live action movie. Considering the original series spans over thirty-seven episodes I realised this would not cover the full story and inevitably would cut some out of the story, but I am glad Netflix’s adaptation would at least introduce this story to a new audience. 

This adaptation takes the key elements of the death note series, mainly the book and the creepy death god, and uses some names and relationships from the anime, but not all the characters are quite the same. Death god Ryuk and the private investigator known only as “L” is pretty similar to their animated counterpart. Here is where the character similarities stop though. The main character, called Light, is a departure from the teenage genius fans might expect, and is much more of a normal guy. Whilst he does share some of the same motivations, that genius intellect that always made you feel he was 3 steps ahead is not present as clearly here.

Onto the actual film as a whole, Death Note runs at a break-neck speed. Never giving the viewer time to breathe every scene accelerates the plot and clocking in at just 1 hour and 40 minutes (that’s equivalent to just 5 episode of the series) it feels a bit rushed and hectic at times. As I already knew the framework for the story I was okay to follow along but if you didn’t have any prior knowledge at all I can imagine it would get a little confusing trying to figure out all the rules and the twists and turns the characters go through.

The film could have been cast better, with only really L actor Lakeith Stanfield and the creepy voice of Willem Defoe worth mentioning for their performance. Lead actor Nat Wolff felt like he didn’t quite fit the character for me, and his performance lacked something. the same could be said for Margaret Qualley who played love interest Mia. I wouldn’t go as far to say either gives a bad performance, just neither made the role their own and really commanded the screen.

Director Adam Wingard does a decent job, and I respect the bold move to stray away from sticking to every beat of the anime series. The plot is closer to being an original story within the Death Note world than being a straight retelling of the anime’s story.  The film also has a lot of style and looks great, with Ryuk in particular looking suitably creepy, even if he looks a little rubbery when we see him in lighter scenes.

The third act of the movie the tone seems to shift a little towards a standard young adult teen romance film. It is understandable for these themes to creep in considering the age of the characters involved, but I did feel it was a little jarring given the seriousness and dark nature of the source material.

Verdict

My biggest problems with Death Note all stem from my love for the Anime series. There is a wealth of story for the creators to adapt here, but a lot of it is fumbled and misses the mark that I was hoping for.  This adaptation teases fans of the anime at times, hinting at what could have been a very good adaptation if this was spread over an 8 hour live action TV series, which is where I feel Death Note would have found a better home. As a film it rushes through its story, not giving us enough time to really connect with any character. The style is there, but im afraid Death Note’s rushed story left me longing for the anime, when I wanted to be excited for future films.

5/10 – Adaptation misses the mark, watch the anime instead. 

Girls Trip Review

Girls trip looked pretty funny from the trailers, but not one I was expecting to see. However, I have banned myself from saying no to any movie, so I ended up going to see this chick flick that’s targeted very obviously at women. I was the only male in the cinema, and I saw trailers for films I had no idea existed. I basically spent two hours having a girls night at the cinema.

Considering director Malcolm D. Lee has Scary Movie 5 on his resume, I was expecting a lot of over the top, dumb humour. There is some of that here, but it doesn’t feel as jarring and frankly unfunny as the Scary Movie franchise did. The over the top moments actually worked for me, and made me laugh out loud at points.

Once the movie gets going you quickly realise that this film is reliant on the chemistry between the 4 main girls. Thankfully Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish bounce off each other well and are actually believable as a group of old friends.

Each member of the group may well remind women of one of their actual friends, and as a guy I think i may have missed some of the subtle jokes between women. The humour did work 99% of the time for me, so don’t worry if you’re a guy who is going to be dragged to this by your partner, you will still have a lot of laughs. There is also Mike Coulter from Luke Cage, and he is so incredibly manly most men will feel considerably more feminine than usual. One of the best things about Girls Trip is how the laughs are spread around the group, with the crazy moments equally spread to avoid making one of the characters the “wacky” one.

I don’t see a lot of chick flicks, but the few I have tend to try to shoot for a bigger, more serious point in the film that is supposed to make you think about a deeper meaning. It has never been successful in any film for me, and always feel too preachy and cheesy to take seriously. Girls Trip is no different, and there is a speech made by one of the characters and to me personally, it felt like it lasted roughly 7 hours. I appreciate the filmmakers trying to make things a little deeper overall, just im yet to see it work.

Verdict

I have to be honest, I had no intention of seeing Girls Trip and my expectations were pretty low, but I was pleasantly surprised and had a lot of laughs. From a guy’s point of view, there are definitely worse films you could be dragged to. For girls, I think this film will really make you laugh, as long as you can handle the crude moments (Grapefruit, that’s all i will say).

8/10 – I feel a lot more feminine now…

War for the Planet of the Apes Review

War for the Planet of the Apes is the finale of the prequel trilogy that has been named incorrectly. First we had Rise of the Planet of the Apes,  then came Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. So technically it rose before it started. This final chapter is named war, because it’s about Apes escaping from a prison. There’s some explosions as well so I guess War is the most accurate title so far. 

None of that actually matters of course, the title of a film doesn’t affect the quality of a film, only the box office, just ask “John Carter”, which is a good film nobody saw because it sounds like a film about an accountant. It even did worse than “The Accountant” in the US, which is a film based on an Accountant (who is also a badass, some say it’s based on me, I cannot confirm or deny these reports).

War had the unenviable task of following up on the fantastic second film Dawn, and whilst it never reaches the heights of its predecessor, it delivers a fitting end to this story and the journey we have seen these apes go on.

Andy Serkis reprises his role as King of the Apes Caesar, and once again he is fantastic in the role. The man has become one of the most consistently excellent performers in the movie industry regardless of whether he’s doing motion capture or otherwise. He is the driving force behind this movie and his dynamic with Woody Harrelson provide the crux of the movie.

As I mentioned earlier, “War” is a slightly misleading title as although the film does have some solid action scenes, the focus of the film is much more personal and surprised me that they went for this angle. Without spoiling too much, a major part of the film is set in a prison camp situation and the film is more “Great Escape” than “Saving Private Ryan”.

The action scenes we do get are shot clearly, and you never lose track of what’s happening. there was nothing quite up to the level of the Tank panning shot from Dawn, but the camerawork throughout the hectic battles is solid, and the use of wide shots let you get a real sense of scale towards the end of the film.

Like i hinted at earlier, Woody Harrelson provides an excellent antagonist, and his character seems like a bit of a one-dimensional guy at first but his motivations are revealed and i personally found myself understanding his point of view. Considering he is technically representing the Human Race in this film, its strange that the guy fighting for us is the one we see as the villain. This is a testament to the work done over the 3 movies to get us to relate to the apes in this trilogy.

Verdict

War for the Planet of the Apes never reaches the incredibly heights of Dawn, but I think that would be an unrealistic expectation. What we have here is a good end to a magnificent trilogy of films, that can stand toe to toe some of the greatest movie trilogies we have ever had. If only they named them correctly. Even a monkey could have done a better job.

8/10 – Fitting end to fantastic trilogy. 

Spiderman Homecoming Review

Marvel and Sony collaborate to bring Spiderman to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in his own movie after the cameo he had in Civil War last year. Considering he is my all time favourite Marvel character my excitement for this film was through the roof. The trailers looked a little Ironman heavy, but the glimpse of Tom Holland we had in Civil War gave me so much hope.

Hope that was in good hands, as Spiderman Homecoming gave me everything i wanted from a Spiderman film. Tom Holland is so perfect as 15 year old Peter Parker, and he carries the film effortlessly with Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man being featured very little in comparison to what the trailers implied. This is very much a Spiderman movie and not Iron Man 4.

Tom Hollands school friends are an interesting bunch of characters with Zendaya’s Michelle and Jacob Batalon’s Ned being the most entertaining of the group. I felt there was a genuine friendship growing between those 3 in particular, and hopefully it can continue in any sequel we see as the dynamic is different to anything we have seen in the Spiderman world before.

The entire cast is pretty impressive in Homecoming, and none more so than the antagonist for this film Michael Keaton. In what is easily the most memorable Marvel villain since Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Keaton brings an intensity to the role of the Vulture unlike what we have seen in Marvel villains to date. He is probably the first genuinely interesting villain from  a psychological perspective as the film sets up his motivations straight away, and you understand what he sees his role as in this world and why he is doing what he is doing.

The combination of the best Spiderman put to film to date and a rare great marvel villain blend in perfectly with the marvel movie fun tone we are used to. This films tongue in cheek, self aware humour make it one of the funniest films around, with the comedy blended very well into the movie to where it all feels like a natural progression throughout the film which is a credit to director Jon Watts who handles the young cast terrifically, guiding them through the transitions from light-hearted fun to dramatic and tense scenes.

The one area I felt Homecoming could improve is the action. Whilst it does have a terrific scene on a boat, the majority of the fighting is pretty cut heavy, chopping from angle to angle in a style that didn’t quite work for me. It isn’t transformers level bad by any means, but it could use a little cleaning up and maybe pulling back the camera a touch so we can see everything happening with less cuts.

Verdict

Spiderman Homecoming is one of my favourite MCU movies ever, I love the characterisation of the webslinger they have gone with and Tom Holland is so engaging in this role I could watch him quipping and swinging around for hours on end. The slightly choppy action hurt my score a little, but Spiderman Homecoming is still a great film.

9/10 – THEY PLAY THE TUNE AT THE START.