Die (plural for dice)

Comic books were once considered a bit of a childish medium by the mainstream media. Now, they are the basis for the biggest movie franchise in the world. Next month’s Joker movie is being touted as the favourite for many of the academy awards, and that too is based on a comic book character. They’re now a huge part of media and I for one am very grateful.

Recently I have started branching out of the comiXology app and into the real comic bookstores to look at different stories. Podcasts and recommendations are the best way I have found new stories outside of the Marvel and DC comic book characters I already know so well. One example of this is a comic called Die. It started from a show on Kinda Funny’s YouTube page with the creator of the comic, and now I am eagerly waiting the next issue in a months’ time.

Die has multiple meanings as the title of this book. Death is not the main one though, it’s about D&D. Die refers to the plural word for dice, and the entire lore around the characters is based on Dungeons and Dragons tropes and systems that any experienced D&D player will recognise. I am not a D&D player, I have never even tried it, so I am sure there are a tonne of references I am missing.

I understand the basics of the game and the role-playing elements that have made their way over to the Video Game industry. Classes, skill trees and customisation are all a part of the RPG elements we find in many games now from Skyrim to Spiderman. These touchstones were enough to give me some moments in the book where I had to pause and process what I was reading.

The first 5 issues of Die are available as a collected volume now, and if you have any interest in comics, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. Not because it’s a brilliant insight into D&D, which it is, but because it’s a completely unique premise that has the characters you meet at the start develop decades of their lives before you meet them again. I will spoil as little as I can, but the basic premise is that these 6 teenagers play a D&D game and are transported into the world they are playing in for real. Then 2 years later they escape that world. Well, 5 of them do, and one of them without an arm.

We then pick up the story when the group is well into their adult lives, some with kids, all with varying degrees of success in their careers, but all haunted to some degree by the past and what happened all those years ago. Events lead them back into the world of Die, but this time their need to get is exasperated by things like the school run and work deadlines. I will say no more about the plot, but if that sounds intriguing, pick this book up.

The story so far (it’s up to issue 7 now) has gone to places I didn’t expect and touched on issues you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a comic about D&D. Heartbreak, Loss, Joy, Escapism, Video Game Development Crunch, The bond between an owner and their pet, all of that is packaged in ways you won’t have seen before in a film or TV show.

Every comic I have read I tend to imagine adapting as a TV show or Film, that is just how my brain works. The images flow in my head from one to another. It happens for books too. Die I could see being a great TV show or Movie, but what it serves even better as is as a game. There is a tabletop game in development I believe with the writer Kieron Gillen involved. The world itself is so intriguing though that I think it would really suit the immersion of a video game, but perhaps that’s just my own selfish opinion based on it being my preferred way of enjoying games.

Die is written by Kieron Gillen and is brought to life by the artwork of Stephanie Hans. The pair work together very well and some of the art in the book is breath-taking. I often have to remind myself when I am reading a comic to take a second or two to look around at the artwork. So much effort goes into it and I find it too easy to skip between Dialogue boxes rather than let the art do some of the storytelling as well.

I know, this is a comic book review on a website about screen-based media. Oops. Back to the usual waffle tomorrow, probably about the Amazon show Carnival Row. Thanks for reading!

ChAzJS.

 

 

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Prequel Problems

I settled down last night after getting home late because of train delays and making myself some dinner and began to flick through the various streaming services. For some reason I have had an urge to watch the Star Wars prequels for weeks. and suddenly there they were on Now TV, waiting to be “enjoyed”.

As Episode I began, with baby faced Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson with his glorious mane of hair, I was mildly optimistic I could find some more redeeming qualities in the film as I haven’t watched it for years. The opening 15 minutes are decent, not terrible by any means and some slightly dated special effects and questionable accents on certain aliens aside, I found it okay to watch. Then, they reach Naboo, Liam Neeson’s Qui-Gon bumps into Jar Jar Binks (literally bumps into him) and within a minute I was fast forwarding to the pod race to get away from that unequivocal error of a character.

The pod race itself has always been a bit of a weird one for me. I loved it as a kid, but then I remember when I last watched these films, I thought it was an odd scene. Watching it again last night I kind of enjoyed it and I realise that it’s very similar to the dog racing scene in The Last Jedi, only in The Phantom Menace it has a purpose (to show Anakin’s abilities).

Speaking of Anakin, this is the first time I have watched these films and thought about the fact this 9-year-old child ends up marrying this 18-year-old Queen. The ages in the films are meant to be a bit closer but Natalie Portman looks the same in all 3 films, whereas Anakin ages up and changes a lot, becoming Hayden Christensen. I did also watch Attack of the Clones last night, but I will ramble about that later.

The scenes around the pod race are okay. Qui-Gon has some odd sexual chemistry going on with Anakin’s mother, and her line about Anakin being a virgin birth, a fatherless child, is bizarre but I think Rise of the Skywalker may well explain it. It’s been explained in other mediums of the Star Wars franchise, but never in films. The idea is that Palpatine, the good old Emperor himself, used the force somehow and created Anakin as part of his plan to take over the universe.

Ridiculous right, but this franchise isn’t known for its realism so who knows where they will go. Or if this will ever even be explained. It’s at this point there’s more talking, more trade disputes, more things I couldn’t care less about. So, I skipped ahead again. I managed to get to the final fight, the only part of this film I wanted to watch. Darth Maul arrives and Ray Parks in that make up just looks bad ass.

I remember being so amazed by a double bladed lightsaber when I was little. I grew up playing pretend imagining I had a blue, green, or red one, but anything beyond that was just not realistic to me. Then here this guy turns up with a double sided one. How outrageous of him to just change the game like that. Then they begin to fight, and again the 6-year-old me was just blown away.

The fight is less actual sword play and more a choreographed ballet of movement and colours. The cinematography doesn’t quite make the most of it, but you can follow what is happening and where people are. The film takes notes from Return of the Jedi and splits into 3 distinct fights. One with Lightsabers, one with blasters, and one with spaceships. Only this time the Spaceship fight is being done by the 9-year-old boy we met earlier.

He has no experience flying anything in space, but he absolutely nails it. People have problems with The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi because Rey picks up being a Jedi quickly. Well frankly there is no basis for this as apparently if you have it, you just have it. You don’t even need to be told how to use any part of this vehicle, if you got the force, the force got you and you’ll be blowing up space stations in no time.

Oh, I forgot about the other fight happening, the Gungans against the droid army. There is a reason I left this out, because Jar Jar is all over it and it should have been cut from the film. Nobody needs it. Nobody likes it. Get it out of my Star Wars. I want it gone. I want him gone. He’s a fucking diabolical choice by George Lucas. I know he created the franchise so had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted in these films, but why did nobody say “Uh George, yeah just a quick point on this Jar Jar character… He is fucking awful”. That’s all that needed to happen, but nobody back then had the confidence to step up to George Lucas and tell him what to do with Star Wars.

So, the film flicks between them all, and I skip through the stupid Jar Jar scenes, and I have to say I found it enjoyable. Even Anakin’s stuff in the ship is pretty fun, if a bit much when there are hundreds of trained, legitimate fighter pilots up there struggling to stay alive whilst he is doing his thing.

Everything comes down to the lightsaber fight for me though. With Obi-wan trapped he watched Darth Maul beat Qui-Gon and Liam Neeson bows out. Then Obi Wan comes out swinging and slashes the double bladed lightsaber in half, before doing the same thing to Darth Maul.

Important to note he does not kill Darth Maul. That’s right in the Star Wars universe having your legs and hips removed from the upper part of your body is but a flesh wound. Not to mention the fall down a huge shaft like the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. Darth Maul shows up in several cartoons and even at the end of the Solo spin off film. He has robot legs, and it’s the best stuff the character ever does. Even better than the various times in this film when he looks broodingly into the distance.

So, there you have it, an account of my first-time watching Star Wars Episode I in over 10 years. I did this so you don’t have to. Just go straight to Attack of the Clones. Which is what I did after managing to fast forward through enough that I watched Phantom Menace in around an hour. I will go into that tomorrow or another time though.

Until then thanks for reading!

ChAzJS

 

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 5 – 1

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. This is the final 5, the top dogs, the MCU films I love the most. And later tonight, at midnight (the 24th at the time of posting this) I will be seeing the culmination of all of these films. So without further delay, here goes:

5 – Spiderman Homecoming

Spiderman coming back to Marvel felt like a big moment for the franchise. Civil War showed us him for the first time, and this film cemented his place in the MCU. Considering we had seen multiple Spiderman movies just a few years before his MCU introduction it’s amazing that this film doesn’t suffer from Spiderman fatigue. A big part of that is down to the change in tone,  Spidey’s age and the introduction of Iron Man into the film makes things feel fresh compared to the previous attempts.

Sam Raimi’s Spiderman 2 is considered by many to be the best Spiderman film we have seen. In my opinion, Homecoming is better than any Spiderman film we have ever had. Tom Holland as Peter Parker is perfect as a teenage spiderman, and one of my favourite part of the film is the interactions between Peter and his classmates, particularly Ned. Ned and Peters moments remind me of being a teenager with my mate.

The best part of this film, and why it’s so high on the list, is Michael Keaton. From Batman, to Birdman, to  Vulture, Keaton is excellent in this film. He delivers the best villain in the Marvel franchise since Loki in The Avengers. The reveal of the film is one of the few truly shocking moments I have experienced, and I remember hearing people genuinely gasp when Keaton opens the door to Peter.

4 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If i had to show someone completely new to the MCU one film as an example of how great their films can be, it would be The Winter Soldier. In my opinion it is the best standalone film in the entire franchise, and one of the best spy movies ever. It’s the MCU debut of the Russo Brothers, who went on to do Civil War, then Infinity War, and then Endgame. All of that is off the back of what they did in this film.

The film challenges the ideals that Captain America has always stood for. Everything he trusts is shattered and the reveals in this have huge ramifications in the wider MCU. All the espionage and twists are punctuated by some of the best action scenes in the MCU, starting with the opening scene on the boat. The Russo’s gave Cap a real sense of power over normal people, and the only equal in the film is The Winter Soldier himself.

Winter Soldier is a perfect example of the MCU diversifying the genres within the Marvel franchise. It compares with films like Skyfall and Mission Impossible Rogue Nation, and that in itself is a huge compliment. If I was being purely critical of every film in the MCU this is No.1, but im not, and this is my favourite list, so here we go into the top 3.

3 – Captain America: Civil War

This film is brilliant. It’s an avengers film wrapped up in a captain america bow, and it proved that the Russo’s could handle a huge cast and make it work, paving the way for infinity war. It’s also an incredibly fun movie, like a child smashing all of their favourite figures together. That being said, it felt like there was real weight behind the action, especially that final Iron Man V Cap & Bucky fight that is one of the best moments of the MCU as a whole.

It also boasts my personal favourite action scene in any film ever, the now famous Airplane fight. All of our heroes, bar Hulk and Thor but more on that duo in a minute, battling it out in a giant playground. Somehow every character has their moment, from titular hero Cap to newbie Black Panther. Ant-Man goes Gi-Ant, Vision nearly kills War Machine, and worlds collide when Spiderman makes a Star Wars reference.

Civil War felt like the MCU taking a step onto another level, and it’s up there with the best experiences I have had in a cinema. It is also the first time i felt you really had to have done your homework to enjoy a MCU film, with a lot of the previous films playing a heavy part on the events, with the Sokovia accords being a key plot point making Age of Ultron required viewing before you see it.

2 – Thor Ragnarok

This might just be the most rewatchable film in the MCU bar from number one on this list. Taika Waititi took a character I had grown bored of, and made him one of my favourite in the whole series of MCU films. Thor was a pretty one note guy, only for this film to give him a whole new dimension and an awesome new look. Chris Hemsworth looked good as long haired Thor, but short-haired Thor could steal the love of my life and I’d drive them round as a chauffeur.

On top of the transformation of Thor, Ragnarok also delivers the best Hulk movie to date. Having seen this film it seems obvious to pair up Hulk and Thor, but it wasn’t really something I was too excited for before the trailers. Once I had a glimpse of Ragnarok with the first trailer I was sure it would be decent at the very least. What we got was much more than that.

Ragnarok is a hilarious, action packed, exciting movie that keeps a smile on my face the entire time every time I watch it. That makes this one of my favourite films of all time, a mad claim for a film about Thor, especially off the other two films in Thor’s solo movie catalogue.

1 – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 1

Guardians of the Galaxy should not have worked. It is a movie set in space about a kidnapped human, a green woman who isn’t She-hulk, a clumsy brutish grey man, a talking racoon and a sentient tree. That alone is a ridiculous premise, before you add in a few blue aliens, one is part robot, one wears too much guy-liner, and one whistles to control a golden flying arrow.

It’s all a bit ridiculous, and somehow it works absolutely brilliantly. Right from the off, we are given a taste of exactly what to expect with Peter Quill dancing around to Redbones “Come and Get Your Love”. That scene is the first of several iconic moments. I saw this film 5 times in the cinema, a record matched only by Episode 7, a film that had over a decade of hype behind it. I saw this film repeatedly because it is so, so, SO entertaining.

Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t have characters I have known and loved for years. It is a completely new story to me, brilliantly written and cast perfectly. It turned Chris Pratt into the household name he is today, and brought Blue Swede’s Hooked on a Feeling to a whole new generation. Guardians is the most fun I have ever had watching a movie multiple times. It doesn’t have the ramifications of Civil War or Winter Soldier, and it’s not got the iconic hero moments of the first Avengers, but out of the 20 films we have to date aside from Infinity War, it’s the MCU film I am most likely to watch at any given time.

So there it is,  I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoy most of the films on this list and ranking them was actually a lot of fun, and something I might do for Star Wars, Harry Potter and some other franchises in the future. Comment with your top 5 and see how we compare! Thanks for reading, Here is the full list.

20 – Thor: The Dark World

19 – Thor

18 – Iron Man 2

17 – Antman and the Wasp

16 – Captain America: First Avenger

15 – The Incredible Hulk

14 – Antman

13 – Avengers: Age of Ultron

12 – Iron Man 3

11 – Black Panther

10 – Captain Marvel

9 – Doctor Strange

8 – Iron Man

7 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2

6 – Avengers

5 – Spiderman Homecoming

4 – Captain America: The Winter Soldier

3 – Captain America: Civil War

2 – Thor Ragnarok

1 – Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 1

Ranking the Marvel Cinematic Universe – 16-20

With the culmination of 11 years of films coming next month in Avengers Endgame, I have decided to go through and really think about the films that got us here. I am going rank them in order of how much I enjoyed them all. Doing all 21 films at once is madness, so I’m breaking into four and this week is the bottom of the barrel. The worst the MCU has coughed up. You will notice from the title I am only ranking 20 movies, not the full 21. That is because I am leaving out Avengers Infinity War, as in a lot of ways that and Endgame are two halves of one whole and also because it would be No 1 easily, but only because of the groundwork done by the previous 20. So here goes, bottom of the list:

This post contains spoilers for every film, some major, some minor, so reader beware!

20 – Thor: The Dark World

There’s only one film I think could take this spot, and it’s a film nearly everyone agrees is “meh” at best. Taking the foundations of the first film and making Thor an even less relatable character was an odd choice, and that for me is where this film falls down. There’s also the forced relationship between Natalie Portman and Chris Hemsworth on top of some comedic beats that fall flat on their face.

All that being said it’s got some redeeming features, the actions exciting, Tom Hiddleston as Loki is entertaining at all times and he’s given plenty to do in this film. What I think could have been utilised more in Dark World is Thor’s companions like Lady Sif, and the Warriors three. They’re relegated to side roles and I think this could have been a better team up movie than it was, although I do wonder if we’d have got the magnificent Ragnarok, which is essentially a team up movie, without getting through this faltering effort.

All in all, Thor: The Dark World combines some of the worst elements of the MCU movies and doesn’t do enough of the good elements to keep its head above the average line. Arguably the franchise’s biggest waste of an actor is with Christopher Eccleston as one note villain Malekith is the biggest sin of all, and that pushes this film to the bottom of the MCU list for me.

19 – Thor

I can imagine some people harbour fond memories of this film, as it has a lot of fun moments, but if you go back and re-watch it, this is the most glaringly obvious evidence that marvel was still very new to this during Phase 1. Chris Hemsworth has grown into an excellent character, but here is stiff, unrelatable and at times simply unlikable. He acts like a Shakespeare character taken out of time and plonked into the real world, but he’s actually from a world that is far in advance of Earth’s technology.

I think Thor is the film that time has treated the worst in the entire franchise, as to me it feels very dated now. The character has changed and developed so much over the years that the over-confident, cocksure brute we see here just doesn’t seem like he is cut from the same cloth. As an individual film, it does work quite well, that Shakespearean thing working as a kind of genre unto itself, but it doesn’t fit the MCU as a whole for me. The actions decent, The humour lands better than in its direct sequel, and it does get credit for being a Thor film that people actually took seriously.

It’s perhaps harsh to judge this film by today’s standards, but as you will see later in the list, that doesn’t automatically put a film down the rankings. Thor is a near hit, just the right side of 5/10 compared to The Dark world. Perhaps I am being harsh, and you think this should be heralded as the introduction to debatably the MCU’s most powerful hero. I can certainly see why some people rate it, but when compared to the rest of the MCU, it just doesn’t measure up.

18 – Iron Man 2

Iron Man is, and always will be, the gateway to the MCU. His first movie (we will get to it eventually) is an astounding film, breaking new ground and putting a B list marvel character on the map. His second outing took that same character, turned down the likability a touch, upped the snarky attitude, and then let Mickey Rourke shit all over the film.

I don’t really enjoy railing on an actor or actresses performance as I genuinely believe the vast majority of them put in a decent amount effort at the very least. As Iron Man 2 villain Whiplash, I think we see an example of a role Mickey Rourke took purely because of a big pay cheque. He puts on a lazy russian accent, and delivers his lines with all the passion and gusto of a tired teacher in front of an unruly, disinterested class. The film overall is actually quite good, features some insanely cool easter eggs (Peter Parker!) and some of the best action in any of the phase 1 marvel films.

The F1 race scene is brilliant, and the suitcase armour is one of the coolest moments in the MCU. On top of that, the end fight is actually well done, with Iron man and War Machine teaming up just as they did in the TV shows I used to watch. Sam Rockwell often gets lumped in with Mickey Rourke for being the villain, but I actually think he is decent in the film, but he’s wasting his time trying to play off of Rourke’s Whiplash character. Damn this could have been brilliant. I bet Mickey wishes he took this role seriously seeing what the MCU has become.

17 – Antman and the Wasp

Okay here we are, the first of the tough decisions I had to make figuring out this list. The bottom three picked themselves, but every one of the films from here on in are movies I really enjoyed. Antman and the Wasp is a film that I think is a prime example of a modern-day MCU movie. It’s fun, it’s got clever action unique to the hero, and the villain is more promising than we experienced in Phase 1 and 2 of the MCU.

What puts it so low on this list is that I can barely remember what happened, why I cared, or if anything major happens except about 3 lines of dialogue and the after credits scene. Just 2 entries ago I mentioned how age has affected the movie, and Antman is the first entry that I think falls into the bad timing category. This film came out a few months after Infinity War. Nobody, me included, was really that invested in what Antman was doing during the events of the epic movie that released months prior.

It’s not bad, and I think repeat viewings might raise it up the rankings a little, but as it is, today, ranking the movies, This one just couldn’t spark anything in me to make it sit higher. This is essentially the benchmark for a standard MCU movie, and the next few entries aren’t necessarily better films, but it just doesn’t have that magic moment that the next few films did.

16 – Captain America: The First Avenger

This was, when it released, a film I honestly couldn’t believe I was seeing. Captain America was always something of an enigma to me. He would show up in the odd Spiderman cartoon, save the day by chucking his shield about and then leave after a cheesy, overly patriotic line about freedom. This film took that goody too shoes, near infallible character and made him feel real.

This captures the character of Captain America so well. Steve Rogers is a very good, honest and unselfish guy. I mention moments earlier, and I think that’s a theme that will continue in these mini reviews. I remember the “I can do this all day” scene, partly because of its impact in Civil war and Winter Soldier, but also because it was iconic immediately when he picks himself up off the dirt. The moment that really sells me on this film, and sold me on the entire character of Captain America, is the scene with the “Grenade”.

Whilst discussing the potential of the men in the company, the sergeant chucks a dummy grenade to prove a point and show he should pick his preferred option. The grenade hits the floor, everyone dives away to save themselves. Steve doesn’t do that, he dives straight onto the grenade and yells for everyone to get back. In this moment, I understood what Captain America is all about. He is not just a symbol for America, he is there to save anyone he can, and will sacrifice anything to save someone else regardless of the situation. It’s a characteristic that has stuck with the character throughout 3 Avengers films and his own trilogy, given even more of a highlight by his fierce loyalty to his childhood friend Bucky.

The film actually makes a bit of a hash of the Red Skull character in my opinion, and there’s a considerable lull in the film with the montages of the war for me, but its a solid start for a character that, to me, is the centre of the best MCU films to date. Sorry Tony Stark.

So there we are, the bottom 5. Starting this list has reminded me how many good to great films Marvel has produced. Fan’s of this kind of stuff should count themselves lucky, I remember a time when X-men was as good as it got. You probably have fond memories of that film, go back and watch it now, it does not hold up. I can’t wait to go through the next 5, and from this point on its just going to be like listening to a greatest hits album of your favourite band. Thanks for reading as always.

What We Do In The Shadows (2014) Review

What We Do In The Shadows is a 2014 mockumentary directed and starring Thor Ragnarok director Taika Waititi.  It was mentioned a lot during the press events for Thor Ragnarok and touted as a big reason he got given the Thor Ragnarok chair. I went back and watched to see if the film holds up. 

Shadows is essentially Taika Waititi’s sense of humour put onto film. The comedic style of Thor Ragnarok is clear to see, with the documentary style serving as a great framing device for the New Zealand native’s excellent writing. Him and co-writer Jemaine Clement also star in the film, and whilst the acting is nothing special, their comedic sense gets them by and their timing is great throughout.

The film is unabashedly weird, and it may be a little too odd for some audience members. The weirdness is contrasted by the realistic lens that Shadows is shot with, the camera work and effects complimenting each other to keep you engaged with the film. Some of the camera work is really clever, and shows how a lack of budget can be worked with to create some really great moments that a larger budget would have solved with throwing money at a special effects team. I like seeing films do this stuff, and really appreciate the ingenuity required to make a low-budget film look this good.

The jokes have a pretty high success rate, although there were a few duds for me. Sometimes the jokes are a little forced, but that’s really in the minority. For the most part I at least smiled to myself and a couple of times I laughed out loud. This is Waititi’s humour at its raw,  unfiltered. Ragnarok showed us his refined, sharpened wit and his writing has only improved over the last few years. What We Do In The Shadows has some really well written jokes and set ups that pay off in entertaining ways, and that ability to find something entertaining in nearly all situations is one of the reasons Marvel went after the filmmaker.

Mock documentary films rarely move the needle for me, as I find it hard to connect with the characters and the jokes sometimes feel a bit forced. However, as I learnt shows like The US Office and Parks and Recreation, when they’re executed well, they’re brilliant. What we do in the shadows is the first film I have watched that really got me invested since the uniquely flavoured Borat in 2006. This film isn’t nearly as politically incorrect (nothing really is compared to Borat) but it does the same job of introducing outlandish characters and putting them in funny situations.

I haven’t watch Sacha Baron Cohen’s Kazakhstani parody for a long time, but I can’t imagine it holds up terribly well today. What We Do In The Shadows does hold up from 5 years ago, and I think it has the right ingredients to stand the test of time. What is certain is that Taika Waititi is on the up, with clear improvements in his directorial skills as well as his writing from this to Thor Ragnarok. All that means I can’t wait to see what comes next from the Kiwi, and I hope he can stay on this trajectory.

Good: Brilliant writing, outlandish and fun characters, Stu is a great guy, and the filmmaking skills used to get the most out of the budget are great.

Bad: The acting isn’t the best, and there are a few flat jokes. May be a bit weird for some audiences.

8/10 – What Will Taika Do Next?

Nightcrawler (2014) Review

Nightcrawler was a film I missed back in 2014, despite it looking like a film I would really enjoy. Jake Gyllenhaal received heaps of praise for his role as Lou Bloom, but no Oscar nomination which many saw as a snub. Would his performance live up to my expectations?

The short answer to that question is Yes. What’s more, he was definitely snubbed an Oscar nomination. In a year when Christian Bale received one for American Hustle, I think Gyllenhaal more than deserved a place on the list of five for that year. He disappears into the character of Lou Bloom and the intensity he brings draws you into the film.

The character himself is unneringly creepy and yet somehow you’re complete with him on the journey. You don’t quite route for him on the level of Joe from Netflix series You, but it’s a similar feeling of cheering for a bad guy at times. Lou is very clearly, from the first moments of the film, a bad guy. He’s out for personal gain, and that’s it. He’s close to being comic booky in his motivation being so self-centred and his lack of empathy towards others is shocking. Gyllenhaal plays him so well, that what seems like vulnerable moments you realise are calculated moves to manipulate people.

His employee for the duration of the film is played by Riz Ahmed, who shows more talent in this performance than I have seen from him on any other film. He’s not given a very well.developed character, but he is entertaining and makes the most of playing off Gyllenhaal’s performance. I think the sidekick role suits his mannerisms and he’s much more at home here than he was in Venom.

First time director Dan Gilroy begins his directorial career with a brilliant effort. He gets the best out of Jake Gyllenhaal, and one of the main parts of a directors job is pulling the best from his cast. His direction combined with some good editing make this feel like a well put together film made by a seasoned pro, not a first time effort. He also directs Gyllenhaal in Netflix’s Velvet Buzzsaw, which is next on my queue to watch so I hope he’s continued his solid start.

The films story is kind of paper-thin in a way, it’s all about Lou Bloom, and that’s the crux of the entire film. As such there’s no real story to be engaged with, just the question of what the manical character is going to do next. This kind of took away from the film for me, as there is no plot to keep you engaged. It’s as good a film could be without a decent plot though, with the performances really coming through to make this a very enjoyable film.

Nightcrawler is a film I think a lot of people will enjoy. It’s got one of the best acting shows of the decade for me, and that alone makes it worth 2 hours of your time. We often see Director/Actor partnerships develop in the industry, most famously Scorsese and Dicaprio. It’s given me a lot of hope for Velvet Buzzsaw, as the duo of Director Dan Gilroy and Gyllenhaal clearly enjoy working together. Hopefully there is a bit more to chew on in the story department, but Nightcrawler is a great start to the duo’s creative relationship.

Good: Acting, Cinematography and all round good film-making techniques on show. Character driven film.

Bad: Story is thin, and no real lessons learned by the characters by the end of the film.

8/10 – Worth it for Jake on his own. 

The Fate of the Furious (2017) Review

By now everyone knows what to expect with a Fast and Furious film. Mad stunts and car chases, a nonsensical story, a few touching moments and a title that throws doubt over what the franchise should actually be called.  

Here is the run down of the names:

The Fast and The Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and The Furious Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, The Fate of the Furious, Furious and Fast, Fasten and the Furious, Faster and Furiosa, Infinity Fast, and of course Fast and Furious Pod Racing – A Star Wars Story.

Fast 8, as I shall refer to it for the remainder of this review, picks up with a Dominic Toretto who has finally settled into a normal life, coffee with his partner, crosswords by the pool, settling feuds with street races in a car that is exploding, getting into a good book before bed, you know the normal lives we all lead. The opening scenes are incredible to watch, the way it’s done so seriously despite the clearly mental things happening on-screen I found to be hilarious, although I am not sure that was the intention.

An encounter with Charlize Theron’s Cipher leads him to have to go against everything he stands for, and from there we have the events of Fast 8. This films plot is predictable, ridiculous, and absolutely pitch perfect for what this franchise has become. Cipher could actually develop into a rather interesting character judging by the glimpses we get into her psyche and motivations behind what she wants to do. Rather than delve into this, she is given a little hint of that flavour and then left to be a generic villain.

The rest of the team from Fast 7 return, minus franchise legend Paul Walker after his unfortunate passing a few years ago, and the film uses The Rock to step into the void that Walkers character leaves. Dwayne Johnson could make pouring a glass of water entertaining, and he drives the movie well. My favourite parts of the movie are his interactions with Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, which bodes well for the next film in the franchise, this years (Deep breath) The Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw. Their chemistry is fantastic, and you can see why the two have been paired up for their own movie. The rest of the team has always been there, but never really stepped up to be leading characters, so it’s good for the franchise to branch out from just Vin Diesel leading the way.

This being a Fast and Furious film, there is an abundance of action and chase scenes. How everyone know where to go is explained in quick, absolute word salad car crashes of dialogue that sound like they’re making up words. “If we dooble the soodle and double down on the shaba we can stogey it and then we will find exactly where we need to go” is an actual, legit quote from the film*. A lot of the film is there just to fill in gaps between action sequences, and I was conscious of that watching the film. I found myself staring into space waiting for the next round of explosions and crumpled bumpers to arrive.

The action we do get is over the top, crazy good fun. The laws of physics are applied sparingly, with the rock climbing out of a car, hanging on with one arm, skidding along the ice on his shoes, travelling at 100s of miles per hour, then of course he reaches down and redirects a torpedo that is propelling itself along the ice. That’s just one, 15 seconds example, from a film that’s over 2 hours and 15 minutes long. You don’t ever feel that length, because the film has very few slow moments, but it shows the point that fast and furious has reached.

Overall Fast 8 delivers exactly what I expected, a batshit crazy two hours where you have to suspend your disbelief just as much as an Avengers film. These are super hero movies, just with no powers. Well no powers yet, I would not put it past them for that to happen at some point. Oh no wait, check out the trailer for Hobbs and Shaw, Idris Elba is bulletproof. The time is now. If you can shut down your brain for a few hours and just enjoy the craziness for what it is, there isn’t much better than the Fast franchise for this type of stuff. If you want an action film on a similar scale but less ridiculous, find yourself a recent Mission Impossible film.

Good: Mad action, Great one liners, and if you’re a big fan of the word “Family” it is said an incredible 44 times.

Bad: Plot is an afterthought, Everyone has forgotten Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) murdered one of their tight-knit “Family”, and he’s welcomed in. Dom Toretto is more capable than Superman.

6/10 – Epic, Dumb, Crazy and Dumb, but still kind of fun. 

*It’s not, but it might as well be.