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Review: Iron Man 3 by Jamie

In 2008, Marvel began an experiment in cinema. Could a cinematic series work in the same way as a comic book continuity? Could you have a hero regularly appearing in his own series but also bring that hero together with others for a team flick? It was a grand experiment that culminated in ‘The Avengers’ in 2012 and I think we can all agree that it was pretty sweet. Marvel and Disney had somehow managed to pull it off and create a consistent cinematic universe where everything just worked. Now the question is, where do things go from here? How would ‘Phase 2’ as it’s called work in a post-Avengers world?

Well, our first taste of Phase 2 came in the form of Iron Man 3, a continuation of the story of the hero that started it all, Tony Stark. So can Marvel continue to ride high on the wave of success that The Avengers brought or has that wave crashed on the rocky shore of failure? Well, I’m rather pleased to say that I fucking loved this movie.

The biggest problem that any of these movies faces is returning to the single character format after the ensemble movie. This is a little easier to do in comics because a) The team books aren’t always necessarily taking place within the same time frame or even continuity that the single character books are and b) Fuck it, if you want to put a character or team from another book in then you can just write and draw them in. Iron Man 3 manages to craft a believable story that both acknowledges the events of The Avengers whilst still very much being a story about Tony. True, there are some moments where you find yourself thinking “Well, if this is going on why has no one called in at least Captain America or something?” but for the most part it works.

Perhaps the two biggest surprises that I can talk about here without being spoilers are that the film takes place at Christmas (which I believe can be attributed to Lethal Weapon writer Shane Black who wrote and directed this film) which is a nice little touch, though it annoyed me a little because it made me break my arbitrary rule about only watching Christmas films at Christmas, and that this film is funny. I mean really funny and it’s tone is consistent the whole way through. With most action films that try their hand at comedy they suddenly become deadly serious in the third act in a tonal shift that can be quite jarring. Iron Man 3 keeps it’s humorous, playful mood all the way through and it works. It works really well for both the character and the story. Perhaps an even bigger surprise is just where the humour is derived from. Iron Man 3 is not a parody but it is certainly a film that plays with expectations. It knows what you expect from certain situations in action movies and superhero movies and it flips them on their head and I for one thought it was brilliant. There’s one moment in particular that’s going to really piss of a select group of this movie’s audience but I loved it. LOVED IT.

What else can I say that wouldn’t be spoilery? Well, it’s great to see a little less reliance on CGI than we’ve had in the past. Things actually blow all the shit up in this movie and there’s a sequence involving people falling out of a plane that was at least partially shot using a team of skydivers. Sure CGI has come a long way since even the first Iron Man but it’s still more impressive to see things done for real every now and then.

As for the acting, well, the main cast you know. Robert Downey Jr. is Tony Stark at this point and he’s just as good as he’s ever been. Gwyneth Paltrow get’s play a larger part here which frankly I like. Sure, she may not be everyone’s favourite person but within this series of movies I think she’s great especially working with the handicap of playing a character called Pepper Potts. Freed from the directing duties, Jon Favreau also has a slightly expanded role which is a nice touch and plays on the friendship between Tony and Happy Hogan. Hell, now that I think about it even JARVIS (Paul Bettany) has more to do here. It makes sense really. This film is very much about Tony Stark and what better way to do that than with more interaction with the people he cares about. In fact, the only person who might have less screen time that in Iron Man 2 is Don Cheadle as Rhodey. He still has an integral role to play and he’s very good but I guess the biggest interaction and confrontation we really need between Tony and Rhodey was in Iron Man 2.

As for the new people, Guy Pearce is great as Killian Aldritch, founder of Advanced Idea Mechanics who has had a rather unpleasant experience with Tony Stark in the past. There‘s the worry early on that he’s just going to be a retread of Sam Rockwell’s character from 2 but as the film progresses it’s clear that he isn’t. Rebecca Hall is decent enough as Dr. Maya Hensen, a botanist who helped to create a virus with regenerative qualities who once had a fling with a young Mr Stark. The main problem I have, I guess, is not so much the actress but some aspects of the character just didn’t make much sense to me. Of course the person that everyone is wondering about is Sir Ben Kingsley as The Mandarin. Well, he’s great. Fucking brilliant. He’s part Osama Bin Laden, part history teacher with maybe just a dash of Fred Phelps thrown in but he’s also so much more. So, so much more.

So Phase 2, and 2013’s Summer Blockbuster Season, kicks of not with a whimper but with a bang. An awesome bang. So yeah, go and see Iron Man 3. I mean, you were probably going to anyway. Oh, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you this but stick around for after the credits. Four and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

Iron Man 3

If this were a Marvel movie, this would be the after credit sequence letting you know that there’s a full on, spoilerific video discussion coming some time in the near future once everyone’s had a chance to see it. Stay tuned.

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2011 in Film: Number 4: Green Hornet by Jamie

(This is a repost of a review from 17, February, 2011)

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: The Avengers (AKA Avengers Assemble) by Jamie

This review is spoiler-free.

For around five years or so now, Marvel has been laying the groundwork for what many had hoped would be the greatest comic book movie event of all time. I speak, of course about The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble as it’s known here in the UK so that our simple British minds don’t confuse it with the Patrick Macnee starring series from the 60s of the same name).

From Iron Man in 2008 all the way up to Captain America last year, everything has been leading up to this and the question on everyone’s lips was could a film of this magnitude, bringing such a wide cast of characters, possibly live up to the hype?

Well, the answer in this humble comic book and movie geek’s opinion is an emphatic yes. I don’t think it could be a more emphatic yes if I had taken some kind of emphatic-enhancing drug that gave me powers of emphacy far beyond that of a mere mortal man. Is emphacy even a real word? I don’t give a fuck. That’s just how emphatic I am.

So where to begin with a film that I find hard to express in words the level of awesome that it was? Well one of the major advantages that this film has over other comic book films is that it doesn’t have to waste much time explaining any of the characters origins. It starts assuming that you’ve seen the films that preceded it and so get’s on with the job it’s there to do, dealing with the origins of the team itself which is a far more entertaining kind of origin story due to the interplay of the characters involved.

This interplay is where much of the humour in the film comes from. This is undoubtedly a Joss Whedon film. It’s as witty as any of his work before and he once again proves that he is possibly one of the best directors going when it comes to putting together an ensemble cast and making it work. Some of the characters do get a little less to do than others, Hawkeye and Maria Hill for instance, but as a whole it’s incredibly well balanced.

There is one character who does stand out and nearly steals the show, the big green bastard himself,
The Hulk. On his surface The Hulk is a deceptively simple character. Mild mannered scientist gets mad and turns into a giant jade rage monster. It’s Jekyll and Hyde for the modern age. Most portrayals of Bruce Banner have played the tortured and tormented aspect of the character to the fullest but Mark Ruffalo does something a little different with him. Yes, he is still haunted by the green spectre of his other self but this is a Banner who’s been living with this for a good few years now and seems to have somewhat accepted his curse, even being able to control it somewhat, and can banter wittily with Tony Stark with the best of them. He also seems to be somewhat glad to have found a place for himself amongst the other Avengers whilst still being rightfully afraid of what his alter-ego would do if he emerged hundreds of feet in the sky on the Helicarrier.

The rest of the actors are all on fine form as their respective characters as well. Tony Stark is still his arrogant, funny self whilst still seeming to have matured a lot since his first film outing. Captain America is still coming to terms with being a man out of time, finding himself frequently frustrated by the phrases and technology around him and perhaps even a little freaked out by Agent Coulson’s hero worship of him. Thor is the same Thor we saw at the end of his film, a little more humble and a little more understanding of humanity whilst being conflicted about his brother’s treachery. And Loki is still as greasy and Machiavellian as he’s always been.

It’s the two main SHIELD agents who perhaps get the most revealed about them. We finally see the people that Nick Fury has to answer to and just how much he is willing to disobey them and just how far he is willing to go to prove his team worthy. Black Widow is also far more fleshed out here than she ever was in Iron Man 2 and we are given several hints about her dark past and her ties to Hawkeye.

Speaking, as I was, of The Hulk and the Helicarrier earlier, it’s probably good to mention the effects here. They are, in a word, incredible. The Hulk looks like he’s there and actually looks like the actor portraying him. Every CGI shot in this film is beautiful and just helps to build a believable world where these characters could exist and these events take place. As for the 3D, it’s good as post-conversion jobs go but doesn’t really add anything to the experience. There’s also the issue of the glasses making things kinda difficult to make out when scenes take place in dark places.

The only real weak spot in the entire film is Loki’s army and the story itself. The army are really nothing more than an obstacle for the heroes to fight and smash and the story is your basic alien invader story but for once, that doesn’t really matter. What’s important here isn’t so much the story but the things that surround that threadbare story skeleton. The meat is the characters themselves, their interactions and how they grow individually and together over the course of the films 143 minutes running time.

Well, that’s about all I have to say without getting in to spoiler territory. If you enjoy comic books, comic book movies and in particular the Marvel movies that have come before this go and see it. Go and see it now. If you are working, scream I quit at the top of your lungs, walk out and see it. I’m sure once you explain your actions later you’ll be able to get your job back. Just see it. Five pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) by Jamie

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Tintin. When it came to that kind of comic book, I was definitely more inclined to read something like Asterix but apparently a lot of people do love the beautified, adventuring journalist because all I’ve heard for a while is how much people are looking forward to the big screen adaptation of Herge’s classic comic. Apparently the people who like Tintin really like Tintin.

So knowing that, keep in mind that I can’t really compare the film’s version of the characters with their comic book counterparts or indeed the general story to how it might have played out on the page. All I can do is judge the film on it’s own merits. Also I watched the film in 2D because, seriously, I’m sick of fucking 3D. It unnecessarily decreases the quality of the film because the stupid glasses make everything quite a bit darker which can really hamper the enjoyment of a bright, vibrant CGI film say, for example, Tintin.

Anyway, the film begins in what seems to be Paris although everyone talks with an English accent and things are paid for in pounds. Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense but whatever. There’s adventuring to be done and mysteries to be solved… Like maybe the mystery of why France has changed it’s currency to the pound… but no. Can’t dwell to much on that. The real mystery has to do with a model ship that Tintin (Jamie Bell) buys which immediately seems to attract the attention of a couple of other people including an American and the mysterious Sahkarine (Daniel Craig). The model ship is stolen and this leads Tintin on a globe spanning adventure that involves an ancient sunken treasure and leads to him meeting the bumbling alcoholic, Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis).

So that’s the basic gist of the film and saying too much more would give away a bit too much of the plot, what with it being a mystery and all. Overall, the film looks beautiful and really shows the leaps and bounds that CGI has come when it comes to creating human’s up on the screen. Gone are the creepy, dead-eyed days of something like ‘The Polar Express’. These characters work just as well as live action counterparts might have done and, for a film such as this, the style is completely appropriate. Motion capture technology certainly seems to have advanced quite far as well with each character managing to be just as expressive as a real person would have been. It all adds up to quite a believable world that at times reminded me of Indiana Jones. The good ones I mean, not that Crystal Skull shit.

The performances were all pretty much stellar. Serkis in particular completely nailed the part of a grizzled, drunken, down on his luck sea captain, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg bring their normal comic sensibilities to the role of the Thompson twins even though I feel they were slightly underused and Jamie Bell was completely believable as the optimistic, adventurous title character.

If there’s one criticism that I can really make about ‘Tintin’ it’s that the plot sometime moved forward a bit too quickly. It’s not a major problem but in a mystery you should perhaps take a little time to explain a few things a bit more clearly before just jumping into the next action set-piece. A prime example of this is Haddock and Sahkarine apparently both having memories of their ancestors. I never really understood quite how that worked but it’s a pretty minor problem in what is otherwise a fun little adventure movie. Overall, ‘Tintin’ gets four pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: The Green Hornet by Jamie

Nothing really too spoilery as far as I can tell. Still, be warned.

I’ve never seen the 60s Green Hornet show as far as I can remember. Never listened to any of the old radio shows and if there are or have been comic books as well then I’ve never read ‘em. Still, I have some knowledge of the characters involved simply due to the way that pop culture just generally seems to infect my brain. Still, I can’t say I was really anticipating this film but everything else good had already been seen and ‘True Grit’ wasn’t coming out for another week so what the hell.

The story is that Britt Reid (Played by Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen) is the layabout, no good partying son of newspaper tycoon James (Tom Wilkinson). One day James is killed by a bee sting and Britt fires his mansions staff except for the maid. The next morning he finds that his coffee is not to his usual liking. He discovers that his father’s mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou) used to make the coffee. It turns out that Kato is a technological genius as well as a Master of the martial arts. Britt also inherits his father newspaper, a position which he doesn’t really want and decides to basically leave it in the hands of Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos playing a watered down version of William Adama if he worked at a newspaper).

Britt and Kato get hammered and come to the conclusion that both of them hated Britt’s father. They decide to cut the head of off his memorial statue but, during the process, they see a couple being mugged and the two leap into action to save them with Kato doing most of the actual saving thanks to his Kato vision (?) and his ability to make cars multiply or something (???). The two are mistaken for criminals themselves, which technically they are having just committed vandalism, and they flee the area.

Britt convinces Kato that they should join forces as a crime fighting duo who pose as criminals in order to get into the seedy criminal underworld of what ever city this is supposed to be… Los Angeles. Right… And also in order to protect the innocent people in there lives which, considering they’re both orphans who don’t seem to have any friends apart from each other, seems to be an odd reason. Britt uses his position at the newspaper, deciding he should take a more active role in the way it’s run, to raise the profile of the newly dubbed Green Hornet (a name which was thunk up by Kato after Britt suggested the name The Green Bee in a scene so hilarious I had to stab myself in the legs to prevent myself from laughing too hard… Yes. That was sarcasm… Actually to be fair that scene did include the one line which I probably laughed at the hardest involving blowing this man all out of proportion…)

Anyway, Britt hires Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) to be his personal assistant after she comes in looking for a temp job. She has a degree in criminology and so Britt uses her to try and figure out what moves The Green Hornet should make next. This also begs the question as to why someone with a degree in criminology is seeking a temp job at a newspaper rather than doing some criminologying but whatever. And so The Green Hornet and Kato start blowing up meth labs much to the chagrin of local crime lord Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz playing a watered down version of the Jew Hunter if he was a crime lord rather than a Nazi).

That’ll do for the synopsis I reckon. Needless to say the villains and heros clash and more things occur. Also there’s a shitty kind of love triangle that develops between Britt, Kato and Lenore. You know, kind of like what happened with Peter Parker, Harry Osborne and Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man 3. And I guess that’s my biggest problem with this film. It’s nothing that hasn’t been done before. If you want a film about an ordinary guy who decides he wants to be a superhero, you’ve got Kick Ass. If you want a film about a billionaire who can afford all kinds of shit to help him fight crime then you’ve got the Batman films. If you want a Seth Rogen comedy then you’ve got a lot better Seth Rogen films out there you could be watching instead.

Also, why the fuck is Michel Gondry directing this film? There where a few of his stylistic touches here and there like the aforementioned baffling car multiplying and an interesting kind of dream sequence type thing but other than that I honestly can’t think why he’d sign up for this. It was just… weird. And not in the good Michel Gondry weird way.

I will say this. The film was a little funnier than I expected but not really funny enough and then the action scenes just seemed to kind of bore me. There were interesting moments but overall the whole thing just seemed to fall a bit flat. Speaking of which, the 3D was utterly pointless. Two pints out of five. Laterz.



Review: Iron Man 2 by Jamie

Yes, I finally got around to seeing Iron Man 2. I really, really wanted to see it earlier but I’m a busy man, damn it. So yes, here is my review, several weeks later than everyone else’s and probably long after everyone stopped caring about it. I don’t care I’m writing this anyway and you can’t stop me. Go on, try. I dare you. Ooh look, I’m still writing. You’re pathetic… I really should stop insulting my readers. It doesn’t do much for reader loyalty. I apologise.

Anyway, Iron Man 2. There are going to be spoilers ahead so, you know, keep that in mind if you’re one of those few people who haven’t seen it. Still, I‘ll try and keep them as minimal as possible. Let’s begin.

The first Iron Man film, I think it’s safe to say, was one of the surprise hits of 2008. I say this because, well, it’s Iron Man. Who really cares about Iron Man apart from die-hard comic book fans? I consider myself a comic fan and even I can’t say I really give two shits about Iron Man. I’ve read the odd issue here and there but it’s not like he’s a Batman or a Spider-Man. He’s one of those heroes who I’d never thought would ever permeate the consciousness of the mainstream.

Still the film came and it hit big and I feel that the main reason for this is really because of Robert Downey Jr. The man just got Tony Stark and brought the character to the screen in a way that was fun and believable. I suppose something also has to be said for the fact that it was also the first film in Marvel’s planned ‘Avengers’ series and the fact that, hey, Superheroes are just pretty damn popular at the moment. Still, I feel that the fact that it hit in the way it did is indeed down to Mr. Downey Jr., an actor who appeals to both men, due to his flat out awesomeness, and women, due to his flat out panties moistening awesomeness.

And so we waited for two years, patiently looking forward to the next part in the Iron Man saga. Now that it’s finally here, was it worth the wait? Can it possibly live up to the first film?

Well, yes and no. I didn’t hate it but it certainly wasn’t as good as the first film. I was certainly entertained for the majority of the film but there were elements which really seemed to drag or that I really, really hated.

The biggest problem for me was, surprisingly enough, Robert Downey Jr, particularly early on in the film. It seems as though he was taking everything that made Tony Stark likeable and pushing just a little too far. It seemed almost as though he was playing a parody of the character from the first film. Yes, some will say there’s a reason for his behaving in this manner but really? That first film rested heavily on your ability to like Tony Stark despite his arrogance and too immediately remove that likeability straight away makes literally no sense to me. Unfortunately you still want to like Tony and, due to the way he behaves, no one around him seems to like him very much which makes it hard to like them which pretty much leaves you having a hard time relating to or liking anyone and leaving you with no anchor within the reality of the film.

Another big problem with the film is the fact that they are trying to bring too many elements from the Marvel Universe and weave them into the plot of this film in order to help set-up the forthcoming Avengers movie. You get the feeling that this was the studios decision rather than director Jon Favreau’s and it seems as though he tries hard to make these elements fit as best as he can but it often ends up making the film a bit messy and meandering. You kind of end up wondering if maybe they should have left Iron Man 2 for a year or two more and let some other Marvel films come out first so that they could have spread out the Avengers set-up a little more evenly.

Still, as I say, I didn’t hate the film. Most of the actors involved did do a pretty good job, even Downey Jr. eventaully managing to turn things down and make Stark likeable again. Sam Rockwell was especially good but then he always is, though I must admit I do find it a bit of a shame that he will forever more be a villain in the Marvel Universe. Also I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Scarlett Johansson looked particularly fuckable in this film. Crass, perhaps, but ultimately true.

Some people have lamented the lack of large set-action pieces in this film and whilst it’s true that they are a bit few and far between in this film, I for one don’t mind that. For me these films are really more about Tony Stark then they are about his metal-plated alter-ego so it makes perfect sense to me that he would be the focus of the film rather than the massive superhero/super villain clashes. What I will say though is that I’m really fucking sick of the final battle being between the hero (or heroes) and a villain (or villains) with powers equal or greater than those of the heroes. That seems to have been the major problem with the last Iron Man film, the last Hulk film and now that’s been pretty much repeated here as well. Still, as I say it kept me entertained for what it was and it was nice to see Captain America’s shield without it just being a part of the set decoration and the post credits sequence gives you a brief shot of Mjolnir so, yeah, stick around for that if you really wanna sit through the entire credits for a slightly obscured view of Thor’s hammer.

Overall I give Iron Man 2 three pints out of five. Laterz.




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