Wonder Woman Review

I enjoyed Batman v Superman, but I had to admit at times it did seem like a big fat trailer for DC’s later films. In one way, it did its job; one of the highlights of the film was Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, which made one want to see her star in her own film. Lo and behold, we now have that film, and it’s a pretty damn good one too.

Wonder Woman was born Princess Diana and raised on the idyllic isle of Themyscira, where she trained in combat against her mother’s wishes. One day, a pilot called Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes near Themyscira; he’s fighting in World War I, which Diana believes is the fault of the evil God of War Ares. She joins Steve in his voyage to London to aid in the war and hopefully defeat Ares, and she not only learns about the world outside her island, but some secrets about herself as well.

The film may begin with Diana getting a delivery from Bruce Wayne, but you don’t need to have seen the previous DC films to enjoy this one. The connection to a larger universe is more a bonus here, as this is very much a stand-alone film; an appropriate big-screen debut for the character (if you don’t count her appearances in the Lego movies).

Indeed it is a film worth seeing on the big screen, for it’s certainly the most visually impressive DCEU film so far. Earlier films in the series have been mocked for their murkiness but here murkiness actually works in this film’s favour, creating a contrast between grimy London and majestically-realised Themyscira, and highlighting the horrors of war Diana encounters.

Once again Gal Gadot shines as Wonder Woman, realising a character who is both tough and naïve, and gets some good interactions with Chris Pine. Another good performance comes from secondary villain Dr. Poison (Elena Anaya) who I would have liked to see more of, and the main villain, not to spoil anything, is effectively threatening.

Wonder Woman has fantastic visuals and great performances, makes its runtime whizz by, and actually makes viewers curious about what else this universe has to offer.

Beauty and the Beast Review

Spoilers may follow

One interesting thing to note about Disney’s 2017 remake of their Beauty and the Beast is how it addresses the issues people noted about its 1991 predecessor. Everyone has joked and commented on how when the Beast was cursed for his selfish ways, his servants were cursed as well although it was only the Beast who did wrong. That gets a surprisingly dark explanation when it’s revealed the Beast (Dan Stevens) as a child was abused by his father and the servants did nothing about it. We’ve also joked about how the witch is the real villain of the film for apparently cursing an eleven year old, yet here the Beast was an adult when he was cursed, and even laughed at the witch (Hattie Morahan) for wanting shelter, which does make it a little more difficult to feel sorry for him.

That said, though, this film doesn’t feel as unnecessary as some thought it would be, and is actually fairly enjoyable. It’s worth watching for the visuals alone, with the castle looking suitable foreboding yet intriguing and some interesting ways to redesign the furniture; Madame de Garderobe the wardrobe (Audra McDonald) has eyes and teeth made of theatre curtains and Lumiere (Ewan McGregor) is not only a talking candelabra, but what looks a candelabra-human hybrid. Everyone’s favourite songs from the original are back and are staged and sung very well, especially the “Gaston” number. There are a couple of new songs in there, but they aren’t that hummable.

Emma Watson, better known as Hermione in Harry Potter, is well-cast as Belle, honouring the original character while adding her own touch, and Dan Stevens manages to balance scariness and sympathy as the Beast. Luke Evans is a fine Gaston, but not as bombastically and enjoyably egotistical as the original character in the 1991 film. The best performance comes from Ian McKellen as Cogsworth, who gets a few amusing scenes.

Beauty and the Beast is unlikely to erase the original from memory, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a watch.

Kong: Skull Island Review

Kong: Skull Island certainly lives up to its title. There’s no skyscraper-climbing in this Kong, as most of the action takes place on the titular isle (which, indeed, does have a lot of skulls). What’s more, it actually does feel worthy of the name Kong, and it doesn’t feel like the King has been needlessly shoved into an original story that needed his star power, as it were.

An expedition into Skull Island organised by Bill Randa (John Goodman) also includes military Colonel Preston Packard (Samuel L Jackson) and tracker James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston). What’s more, the island has some very nasty surprises in store for the expedition, from giant insects to gigantic versions of the Jersey Devil from The Wolf Among Us called “skullwalkers” or “those lizard things”.

Who calls them those names? Hank Marlow (John C Reilly), who has been stranded on this island for nearly thirty years, and knows every dangerous nook and cranny like the back of his hand. He is definitely the most likeable of the human characters, and Reilly seems to be having a blast with this eccentric character, bringing a lot of the film’s humour. The other human characters aren’t as interesting; Hiddleston’s performance is fine and somewhat reminiscent of his turn in The Night Manager, but nothing really memorable about his character.

This is a King Kong movie, however, and King Kong is presented how he should be. He not only looks good, but still exhibits the elements of humanity that endured audiences to him decades ago. He is not truly a monster, but a protector against them. Speaking of which, this is pretty much a big fat B-Movie where the human characters are stalked by monsters like a more extreme version of The Grey, and the monsters here look fantastic with interesting designs. Not only do the skullwalkers look threatening, but there’s also a nice upgraded stick insect.

If you’re in the mood for a fun time at the cinema with big beasties, be sure to catch Kong.

Logan Review

cuaiczwueaaid_w-jpg-large

Spoilers may follow

There have been tonnes of superhero movies coming our way recently, but they’ve at least shown some variety in tone, stories and characters. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has brought us political dramas (Captain America), heist films (Ant-Man) and of course, a film with a talking racoon and a tree-man. Say what you will about Suicide Squad, at least it tried to be distinct from Batman v Superman despite taking place in the same universe. Logan isn’t exactly what you’d expect a superhero film to be like, but that’s what makes it so special.

Logan is intended to be the final appearance of Hugh Jackman in the iconic role of Wolverine, and it is such a fitting end. Here we find an aged Logan in the year 2029, in hiding and taking care of Professor X (Patrick Stewart, fine in the role as usual). Adventure, as it is, comes calling again when Logan is asked to take a young girl called Laura (Dafne Keen) to a place called “Eden” where she can be safe. There is, of course, more to Laura than meets the eye, and she and Wolverine are pursued by the sinister “Reavers”.

We’ve all joked about how overexposed and overused Wolverine is, but here, he is a character one really wants to see more of, one who makes two hours and a half fly by. Jackman believably plays a character who’s seen a lot and been through a lot, and yet still grows throughout the movie. He has several conversations and interactions with Professor X and Laura and all of them are well-performed.

Wolverine may be the main focus of this film, but the other characters are also played exceedingly well. As mentioned before, Patrick Stewart turns in another exceptional performance as Professor X, even adding small touches of levity here and there. Laura has very few lines in the film, but Keen still creates an intriguing and likable character.

Logan is not exactly a kid-friendly film (even though it does acknowledge that children do indeed love Wolverine). The first sentence in the film contains the F-Bomb, and there’s plenty of blood, impaling and decapitations. Despite its tone being the polar opposite of that of Deadpool, they are at the same level when it comes to profanity and violence. The profanity and violence, however, don’t feel too gratuitous; they emphasise the horror of the situation, and the state of the title character. The film doesn’t feel like it’s trying too hard like a lot of post-The Dark Knight comic flicks, the darkness seems to come naturally.

Wolverine doesn’t go out with a bang, but it feels appropriate that he doesn’t. The final battle is satisfying but not spectacular, fitting for the grizzled Wolverine. This is supposed to be his final story, and it feels it. Tribute is even paid to the history of the Wolverine character itself through the actual appearance of an X-Men comic book factoring into the plot, which is done much better than one would expect it to. With all that, Logan is definitely the finale the character deserves.

Split Review

phmmfci0q2iaov_1_l

May contain spoilers

Movies which have as its “monster” someone criminally insane is far from a new idea. It was in fact utilised by one of the first horror movies, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and it has been a hallmark of Batman stories for decades. Such a thing has even been a source of controversy, given that studies show mentally ill people are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators of it.

Now we have Split, where James McAvoy plays Kevin, an antagonist with several personalities. Sometimes he calls himself “Hedwig” and has the mentality of a little boy. Sometimes he’s a woman named Patricia. And then there’s the most fierce and dangerous personality of them all, known simply as “The Beast”.  Kevin has kidnapped three girls specifically to sate The Beast’s hunger.

The film is worth seeing for McAvoy alone, and it is rather impressive how he can make each personality distinct and make every one of them seem unnerving. Though he is reminiscent of Red Dragon’s Francis Dolarhyde – he has an alternate personality that’s a monster and has a background involving domestic abuse – he still feels like his own character. At one point, he, in his Hedwig persona, kisses one of the kidnapped girls, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and then says ‘You might get pregnant’; a quote that’s humorous and sinister at the same time. Casey is the most prominent of the three girls, the final girl if you will, and Taylor-Joy, a newcomer who has nonetheless done good performances in The Witch and Morgan, creates another good performance here.

The movie is also appropriately tense and eerie, making you genuinely worry about the girls and their fate. The opening titles have a sort of Hitchcock feel to them and chases down a rusty corridor which involve hiding in a locker reminded me of the game Outlast. The film knows how to keep you watching through its entire runtime and its ending…well, let’s just say I didn’t see it coming.

Split is not only frightening but fun to watch, especially McAvoy and the characters he plays.

La La Land Review

la-la-land-ryan-gosling-emma-stone.jpg

Spoilers may follow

Like a popular character for authors to write about is a fellow author, a popular subject for movies to focus on is movies themselves. The Artist took a look at the progression from silent movies to “talkies”, and it can even be argued that Inception is an allegory for making a movie. Likewise, La La Land pays homage to the big Hollywood musicals of yesteryear, reflected by its title cards and sequences like tap numbers and the two actors floating around in an observatory. The juxtaposition between these and more modern elements like cellphones and Youtube create a nostalgic feel that makes La La Land an enjoyable watch.

In Los Angeles, Mia (Emma Stone) works at a coffee shop but aspires to be an actress, though she keeps failing auditions. Then she meets jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), and they bond over their aspirations. Soon, Sebastian runs into an old friend of his, Keith (John Legend), who asks Sebastian to join his band, and soon Sebastian and Mia seem to be drifting apart after Sebastian thinks Mia only liked him when he was beneath her.

The movie opens with a traffic jam which then erupts into a big musical number about the sunshine. It’s a silly moment, but it made me smile, and it sets up what this movie has to offer. Musical and dance numbers, with true joy and energy emanating from them. It uses the techniques and styles of the old musicals, yet the story is still modern. The sequences are staged well, though I did think one at the end went on for a little too long. Still, even that one works well, comparing and contrasting Hollywood fantasies with more realistic happenings.

Stone and Gosling are both fine in their performances and do a good job playing off of each other. They are likeable characters and you do want to see them get together and fulfil their dreams. Sadly, they can’t have both, but Stone and Gosling’s performances are why the story is so successfully bittersweet.

La La Land is an enjoyable, entertaining film, and I can see why so many people have been raving about it.

The Bye Bye Man Review

the-bye-bye-man-movie-wallpaper-hd-film-2016-poster-image

The most notable thing about The Bye Bye Man is that it apparently hasn’t seen a horror cliché it doesn’t like. Case in point, the story begins when three students, Elliot (Douglas Smith), his friend John (Lucien Laviscount) and Elliot’s girlfriend Sasha (Cressida Bonas), move into a spooky old house; the classic Goosebumps story opening. There they learn about the titular Bye Bye Man, whose name has an effect not unlike Bloody Mary or Candyman (he even seems to borrow a bit from the Weeping Angels). Saying his name and thinking about him lets him invade your head, causing hallucinations and murderous impulses, and the only way to stop his influence from spreading is to kill those who know about him, including yourself.

Then you look at the Bye Bye Man, see that he wouldn’t look out of place on a CiTV programme, and wonder why the characters in the film are so terrified of him. Some of the clichés The Bye Bye Man utilises are ones with potential; “not knowing what’s real or what’s not” has always been an interesting hook for a story, which is probably why The Matrix was so popular back in the day. This film, however, doesn’t really do anything interesting with what it has.

That does not mean that the film isn’t entertaining though. You’ll be disappointed if you go in looking for chills and thrills, but if you want a dumb horror film to practice your Mystery Science Theatre-esque commentary with, then this will be a good choice when it comes out on DVD. It’s something to watch with friends at a party when you’re all drunk off your asses.