I was actually quite hopeful about the latest Alien prequel as I heard reports that it was better than 2012’s Prometheus. However I forgot how low a bar that was. So while Covenant is indeed better than it’s predecessor it’s nowhere near as satisfying as it should be.
It starts promising with the Colony ship Covenant damaged during it’s voyage and it’s crew making the unwise decision to investigate a radio transmission from a nearby planet. The characters are thinly drawn but it goes along OK and there are some gory scenes when the aliens do make some appearances. However once David (Michael Fassbender) appears sprouting the creation/creator philosophy nonsense that was so prevalent in Prometheus the film goes downhill. Instead of intense action/horror scenes we have Michael Fassbender playing opposite himself as the two identical androids (the Covenant ship’s android Walter and the android from Prometheus David) which devolves into some weird Michael Fassbender fan fiction. Add in some really stupid decisions by certain characters and a final twist that the audience would have spotted a mile off and you get a lacklustre result. The GCI effects of the Xenomorph and some of the other creatures are also disappointing.
Rating 2.5/5 – a solid start descends into a less than stellar result
The third chapter in a trilogy is always tricky one to get right, something the teenage mutants acknowledge themselves during the third film in the X Men prequel seires. But it can’t be as bad as X Men: The Last Stand can it?
Its 1983, ten years on from the events of Days of Future Past and mutants are living alongside humans but while they are not at war they are living on a knife’s edge. When one of the world’s first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) awakes from centuries of slumber he is determine to lay the world to waste and start again, with himself as it’s God. It’s up to Professor X (James McAvoy) , Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and their students to stop him.
OK so Apocalypse is not as good as Days of Future Past or X2 but thankfully it’s nowhere near the flops that were The Last Stand or Origins: Wolverine. Despite the influx of new characters (or returning, younger characters depending how you look at it) the film doesn’t feel overloaded and most get some good moments.
Perhaps the ones that get least development is the new mutants who become the Four horsemen working for Apocalypse aside Magneto (Micheal Fassbender – always good). Out of the three newcomers only Storm (Alexandra Shipp) has some potential. Psylock (Olivia Munn) looks cool and Angel (Ben Hardy) is great looking -apart from the dodgy 80’s hair- but aside from that they make little impact. Oscar Isaac also feels hampered under the prosthetics in what ends up being another generic supervillain, especially compared to Fassbender’s compellingly tragic anti-hero.
Lawrence’s Mystique is served better by the story this time than she was in Days of Future Past and the always dependable McAvoy shines again as Xavier. Out of the new students Kurt/Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is instantly endearing and Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey looks set to become an interesting addition to the team. Maybe if they do more movies they can tackle the Dark Phoenix storyline properly this time.
Action wise there are some good scenes even though the climatic scenes feature the over familiar destroying of a major city. One of the highlights of the film is the reappearance of Quicksilver (Evan Peters) who once again gets a scene stealing moment as he rescuing a bunch of mutants from a building. Peters is hugely likeable and very funny in his extended role. So when will we get a solo Quicksilver movie then?
Rating 3.5/5 – fun if a tad long addition to the X Men franchise
I used to love watching the X-Men cartoon as a kid, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the mutants. Despite a few fumbles along the way (particularly The Last Stand and Wolverine: Origins), I’ve enjoyed the big screen version of the X-Men. But with time travel and a huge ensemble involved in this sequel will it be an epic adventure or an overloaded mess?
In the future robots called Sentinels are killing mutants. Things have gotten so bad that Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Professor X(Patrick Stewart) have come together with a small band of surviving mutants to try to set things right. When Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) is able to send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time (it makes more sense in the film-kind of), he tries to bring together the younger version of Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) to stop Mistique (Jennifer Lawrence) from making a terrible mistake that will affect all the mutants.
Ok first up the bad points. Anyone who reads this blog knows how much of a fan I am of Jennifer Lawrence. However this was not her best film. Not that she was awful but she looked like she bored the whole way through. It may be because her character Mistique didn’t have a powerful character arc this time around. Most of the time her character was just there to be in the middle of a power struggle between two men. Boring. I also didn’t understand how the character Kitty Pryde got the power to send Wolverine back in time in the first place. Maybe I missed something.
Thankfully there is plenty of good things in this movie. The highlight of which is Quicksilver (Evan Peters), one of the new mutants brought into the film franchise. He’s of particular interest because his character is appearing in both this movie and in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Based on what we’ve seen here, Marvel Studios have got their work cut for them trying to beat this version. Peters’ speedster Quicksilver has just a few scenes but his Quicksilver is funny and interesting. The sequence when we see things from his perspective as he speeds up and everyone slows down is brilliantly realised. The humour, the music, everything is perfect. I’m also glad they kept him to just those scenes as he could have been overused but instead it’s one of the memorable moments of the film.
Out of the future mutants I was really interested in was Blink (Fan Bingbing) and her portal creating abilities. I hope we get to see more of her. While it could have been mutant overload with the two timeline worth of characters sharing the screen, the film never feels messy and it easily flits back and forth between the two settings. There is also a lot of welcome humour amidst all the drama. Jackman’s Wolverine has a lot of the best lines and it’s always fun to watch him step back into the role. It’s also great to see both versions of Magneto and Professor X again, and we even get a scene where both Charles face each other for a pep talk.
Occasionally this movie drags a bit in between the action. However it tends to pick itself up again quite quickly. And I have to say I love the ending. The last few scenes are great and leaves you eagerly anticipating the next film.
Rating 4/5 – exciting, fun and full of action, in other words a great summer blockbuster
With the sequel to 300 having just come to the big screen I decided to catch the original when it was on tv recently. But can I handle all the manliness and shouting for 117 minutes?
The King of Sparta Leonidas (Gerard Butler) refuses to submit to God-King Xerxes causing problems between the Persians and the Spartans. Denied by the Ephors to take his army to war Leonidas takes 300 of his men to fight against Xerxes army of thousands.
The opening part of the film describes how Spartans take new-born baby boys and throw away the ones who are weak, disabled or just not worthy. Then the ones who are deemed strong are made to fend for themselves in the wild when they are ten and if they come back they are good enough to be Spartans. Baby killing in your opening minutes? I must admit that didn’t really make me warm to our heroes.
But the thing with 300 is that everything is very, very silly and over the top. And overly macho in a homo-erotic way. It’s also very enjoyable. You can enjoy the story even while you question the plausibility of everything on-screen. Take their battle suits for example. I know the Spartans are probably so bad-ass they don’t need things like clothes but is a jock-strap and a cape really the best amour for battle (just look at The Incredibles to show why capes are not a good idea to fight in).
The green screen did bothered me, becuase it was so obvious that the backgrounds looked so fake, although I guess the overall look did create a comic book feel to it. And while sometimes director Zack Synder sways towards style over substance, the style can be pretty impressive at times.
I’m not sure why Gerard Butler made the acting choice TO SHOUT. EVERY. OTHER. LINE. But I have to say he brings a strong presence to the role, you could see why these men would follow him into a hopeless situation. The rest of his men fade into one another, although it was amusing to spot a pre-fame Michael Fassbender among the soldiers.
Female characters are scarce in this film but at least they are well presented by Lena Headey as Leondias’ wife Queen Gorgo who shows that Spartan women are every bit as strong as their men-and you really don’t want want to see her angry.
I don’t know if the sequel can possibly live up to this gory, unintentionally hilarious fantasy/action movie but it’s easy to see why people are such fans of the original.
Rating – 3/5 a fun mindless way to spend a couple of hours, so go ahead and submit to Sparta
I miss Steven Soderbergh. I wish the talented director of Out Of Sight, Magic Mike and Behind The Candelabra hadn’t retired. Still I recently got to see his 2011 action-thriller Haywire, can this briefly fill the void I’ve been missing?
Mallory (Gina Carano) works for a private company on ‘operations’, where her last case was rescuing a hostage. However all is not as it seems and soon after Mallory is running for her life with her former colleagues and the police after her.
The opening scene is great as we’re introduced to Mallory and her colleague Aaron (Channing Tatum) at a small diner in upstate New York, which features a brutal and unexpected fight scene before going back in time to see how they ended up like this. From then on Haywire is an intreaging, fun, action film with also a nice amount of humour which helps break up the complicated plot and take a breather from the adrenaline packed fight scenes.
It’s great to see a strong female as the lead character in an action film. Steven Soderbergh built the role of Mallory around Carano who had never acted before, instead she was a mixed martial artist fighter. As expected the fight scenes are the high point in this film with Carano doing all her own stunts. Although she is not the most expresive actress she handles the role well and is strongly supported by her more experience cast members (most of whom she proceeds to beat up). Michael Fassbender in particular is great as a British operative and Bill Paxton has fun as Mallory’s protective dad. Only Ewan McGregor as Mallory’s boss and ex husband feels a bit out of place in the film, maybe because its hard to imagine tough cookie Mallory falling for such a slimeball.
However there are some downsides to this film that can’t be overlooked. The plot is overly complicated and confusing, I found it difficult to keep up at times and remember what the hell is going on and who is who and what they were doing. There is also moments of extream stupidity by the villians of the piece and considering they are all meant to be intellegant people you wonder how they got their high powered jobs in the first place.
Although not perfect, Haywire is a fun film and reminds you of how versatile a director Soderbergh is, jumping into different genres and coming up with something interesting and entertaining. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing any new movies from him, but if you’re a fan of Soderbergh and like action films, then give Haywire and Carano a chance. Just don’t expect to understand the plot.
Rating 3.5/5-too overly complicated for its own good but the fight scenes are ace.
Following on from the ciritcal success of Hunger and Shame, British director Steve McQueen brings to the screen an adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir of the same name.
Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free black man in 1841 New York. He is a successful musician and lives with his wife and children. When he’s betrayed by two men who promise him work he is sold into slavery where he remains for…well take a guess?
This is the first film I’ve seen of Steve Mcqueen and he’s produced a powerful and emotional movie. Its fair to say that 12 Years a Slave is not an easy watch-and nor should it be. Some viewers may be put off by the violence displayed in the film, and yes it is hard to watch at times. I know in some films the violence can seem gratuitous or just there to be controversal but the violence in 12 Years a Slave is a necessary part of the story. I”m not sure how you would tell Northup’s tale -or indeed any tale about slavery and not have the subject of violence play a major part.
British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor is outstanding as Solomon. There are scenes where McQueen just keeps the camera on Ejiofor’s face and he is able to express so much pain and emotion with just a look. In some films-especially ones considered to be ‘Oscar-worthy’- no matter how well acted a performance is you’re always reminded that you’re watching a ‘performance’. Here Ejiofor transends so far into the role I was forgetting I was watching an actor-I was just seeing Solomon. Which must be one of the biggest compliment an actor can get (although I’m sure he’d rather have the Oscar than my praises 🙂 ). I’m glad Ejiofor is finally getting some recognition as he’s a talented and diverse actor-just watch him as the villian in sci-fi action film Serenity or as a drag queen in Kinky Boots.
McQueen’s lucky charm Michael Fassbender also shows why he’s one of the most in demand actors at the moment. His slave owner Epps is a vicious monster and can be hard to watch at times. Another standout is Lupita Nyong’o as one of Solomon’s fellow slaves Patsey forced to suffer so much at the hands of her master. I really hope we see more from her in the future as it’s an impressive turn from such a newcomer to the film scene.
What I also liked about this film is that it doesn’t fit easily into the usual Oscar movie of having to be an inspirational tale. Yes Northup does end up out of slavery but this was after 12 years of immense pain and torture, in which many slaves were left behind long after Solomon was freed. I’m glad McQueen doesn’t try to force in a sentimental message about the human spirit or something equally as twee. He just lets Soloman’s tale be told as simply as possible and it’s a great adaptation of one man’s story.
Rating5/5-powerful and emotional, this film deserves all the Oscar glories coming to it