While watching Thor: Ragnarok, I did fear that the Marvel Cinematic Universe was running out of steam, but thankfully, Black Panther proved me wrong. There is still a lot of life and a lot more corners to explore in this world. While the title character may have been introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Black Panther works as a standalone film, but thankfully is not yet another origin story.
The story is mostly set in Wakanda, a secretly-technologically-advanced nation of Africa which has always been protected by a “Black Panther”. The current Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has been made the new king of Wakanda after his father’s death, but his reign is challenged by the arrival of a mysterious figure known as “Killmonger” (Michael B. Jordan).
Like most Marvel movies, Black Panther is a visual treat, and the futuristic city of Wakanda is a joy to behold. There’s a lot of fun to be had seeing their technology in action and how they are utilised in fight scenes, said fight scenes also being very exciting and fast-paced. What really brings Wakanda alive, however, is its residents.
Boseman again turns in a great performance as Black Panther, creating a hero that while noble and regal, still has a human side to him. This human side is most effectively shown through his interactions with his sister Shuri (Letita Wright), who is a scientist who acts as T’Challa’s Q. She’s a very entertaining character and gets in some good banter with her brother. Sherlock’s Martin Freeman plays a role that is likeable and amusing.
Marvel may have had a history with mediocre villains in the past, but have been trying to remedy that with the likes of Ego and Vulture. Jordan’s Killmonger is another intriguing villain – true, he does gain a Black Panther suit himself but wears it only briefly. Killmonger is not only a threatening villain, but an intriguing, sympathetic character.
Black Panther is another fast-paced, exciting and fun addition to the Marvel library. It certainly gives high hopes for Infinity War.
A fitting end to the character of Wolverine, at least until his inevitable introduction into the MCU.
Better Watch Out
Surprisingly clever film which will make good viewing for those who seek something other than saccharine holiday fare.
Proof that horror remakes are not always unnecessary, and has a lot of fun with its monster.
Thrilling and suspenseful with a surprising and satisfying twist, but worth watching just for McAvoy.
While not the best superhero or Marvel-related release this year, this was still enjoyable and had a great performance from Michael Keaton.
The Lego Batman Movie
A tonne of fun and a barrel of laughs, it’s strange that a Lego movie is a better 2017 Batman movie than a live-action Justice League.
A Monster Calls
Not only has some interesting visuals but a heartfelt story as well.
Gal Gadot was one of the best parts of Batman v Superman and shines even more in the best DCEU film yet (or ever, it might seem).
Hilarious, exciting and makes good use of music.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Speaking of a film that makes good use of music, this is a film you could watch again and again, filled with great comedy, action and even emotion.
What holiday works better for the world of horror then Christmas? You might say Halloween, but that holiday’s a little too obvious. Christmas works well for horror because not only do the usual cheer and festivities make great contrast with blood and terror, the holiday itself has a little sinister side too (see 2015’s Krampus for a film that makes fun use of one of Christmas’ more sinister characters).
It seems every year brings forth a new Christmas horror flick, and so here we have Better Watch Out. Now that does seem a rather generic title for a Christmas-themed horror, bringing to mind the “All Through the House” episode of Tales From the Crypt somewhat, and like that episode, deals with home invasion.
Don’t let that fool you, however. Better Watch Out knows what came before it and subverts the viewers’ familiarity with the genre wonderfully. It’s not unlike Cabin in the Woods in that regard, and like Cabin in the Woods, it’s best to go into this one blind. Thus I don’t really want to go into too much detail with this one, but let me just say Better Watch Out offers great suspense, excellent performances, and a despicable, monstrous villain, and all with a sense of twisted humour.
Some people may like watching nice, heartwarming Christmas movies, but for those who prefer a little bit of gore in their Yuletide flicks, Better Watch Out is a good choice.
There have been so many adaptations of A Christmas Carol over the years that a film about the book’s creation seemed a no-brainer. However, I suppose The Man Who Invented Christmas could be considered a “version” of the classic story itself, as in some ways Charles Dickens’ (Dan Stevens) story mirrors that of Ebenezer Scrooge. The movie isn’t exactly subtle about it either; Dickens is frequently visited by his miserly creation (Christopher Plummer), as well as the four ghosts, most of them made to look like people Dickens has encountered.
Indeed, subtle isn’t the right word to use for The Man Who Invented Christmas. It sadly doesn’t include the famous story about Dickens misreading a grave to come up with his main character’s name, but there is a sequence where Dickens hears a man talk about the “surplus population”, then sees two children resembling Ignorance and Want, then comes across an unmourned death. Scrooge represents Dickens’ dark side, and his redemption means Dickens’ own, which is more or less firmly said in the film’s finale.
That is not to say this makes it a bad film; the original Christmas Carol wasn’t exactly all that subtle itself, after all. The film still manages to be fun and festive, capturing some of the holiday cheer of the original novel. Stevens is a delight to watch as Dickens, and Plummer is a fantastic Scrooge. Like Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, I would like to see him play the role in an actual adaptation, along with Donald Sumpter as Marley, who I would have liked to see more of in this film. The film has some creative ways of bringing the ghosts to life, as it were, like making the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come a gigantic, gangly figure that creaks when it moves.
On a side note, Plummer also appears as King Herod in this year’s The Star and the Jesus of Nazareth miniseries, and voiced Barnaby the crooked man in an animated adaptation of Babes in Toyland, so he’s an actor who’s played Scrooge among other Christmas villains. The only other actor I can think of off-hand who can also boast that is Jim Carrey.
The Man Who Invented Christmas isn’t perfect, but with its fine acting and visuals, it’s a good film if you’re looking for something to get you into the spirit early.
Spoilers may follow
Another day, another Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I fear that when writing this review, I’ll be repeating my reviews of previous entries in this franchise. It’s fun, the characters are well-played and have good dialogue etc. Indeed, while I did find Thor: Ragnarok entertaining and enjoyable, there was still the sense that this universe has almost run its course.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like about Thor: Ragnarok. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston again do commendable jobs as their respective Norse gods, and Mark Ruffalo is a hilarious highlight, both as a battle-loving Hulk and a confused Bruce Banner. He gets the lion’s share of the most memorable scenes, proving that Hulk is indeed the one when you want to have fun.
There, however, still exists the typical MCU problem of an uninteresting villain, especially annoying given this villain had potential. Hela (Cate Blanchett) is Thor’s older sister and goddess of death, so she could have been an interesting antagonist, but sadly, she just comes off as your typical evil sorceress, the type you’d find in abundance in, well, Disney films.
There is still a lot of fun to be had, and some of the jokes really work well, like utilising “Pure Imagination” of all songs. Yet there still is the sense of “second verse same as the first”, that so much of this has been done before and done better in previous MCU films. It’s a space adventure like this year’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol II, yet doesn’t have as much heart as that film did. The villain, as said before, isn’t as interesting as the Vulture was in the last MCU film.
So I am recommending you give Thor: Ragnarok a watch; you’ll enjoy yourself, it’s good to watch while munching on a big bag of popcorn. It just feels like something’s missing.
While watching The Snowman, I couldn’t help but think about that classic Christmas special of the same name, and how delightful it would be if that were reimagined as a thriller movie. Imagine Raymond Briggs’s wintry hero using his powers of flight to help track down a killer or him being pursued by a detective about a murder he committed over a can of Irn-Bru. I suppose it shows how interesting The Snowman is if it makes me into Homer Simpson and has me paying more attention to a movie in my mind than an actual one.
The Snowman is based on the Jo Nesbo novel of the same name, and features a killer who goes after women in broken families, using snowmen as his calling card. At one point a snowman is made with a woman’s severed head. That may sound silly but it also makes The Snowman seem a more interesting film than it actually is.
It’s not the worst movie ever made, mind, and I’d even hesitate at calling it the worst of the year. It’s just simply too slow-paced and not all that engaging. There’s nothing that hasn’t been done better by other movies or the average episode of Hannibal. It’s supposed to be a game of cat and mouse between killer and detective, but never really picks up speed. It’s hard to be invested in, and halfway through, you’ll lose interest and start daydreaming about The Snowdog of the Baskervilles instead.
Chris Nolan is a director that knows how to take advantage of the medium of film. From the brilliantly non-linear storytelling of Memento to the wonderfully bizarre sets of Inception, Nolan knows how to emphasize the elements and emotions of his stories through visuals and audio. In The Dark Knight, for example, the Joker’s vicious nature was reflected in his makeup and Hans Zimmer’s discordant theme music.
Nolan’s mastery of the film medium is certainly reflected in his latest, Dunkirk, a film portraying the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. Now, I can’t really say this film gets into the characters’ heads as much as Nolan’s previous films have, but Dunkirk is more about the event itself than the people involved in it, but does expertly portray what the people involved must have been thinking, how they were feeling. Fear, paranoia and hope are all on display here, and shown exquisitely.
Again Hans Zimmer’s score perfectly reflects the action on screen, though here, the most successful scenes have little music at all; the best score is the ticking of a clock, as if we are listening to the very fear that time may be running out itself. Very little dialogue is used here, which only adds to the tense atmosphere of the piece. It’s a film that truly immerses the viewer in its world, so it’s a film worth seeing in Imax.
I wouldn’t go as far as say Dunkirk is Nolan’s best film, but it is a fantastic showcase of how he uses the qualities of film to their fullest.