“If You’re Nothing Without the suit, then you Shouldn’t have it” – Spider-Man: Homecoming (Film Review)

Here we are again. Another Spider-Man. Tom Holland is the man/boy in the suit this time as a co-operative partnership between Sony and Marvel means this Spider-Man is part of the MCU. As someone who felt the Amazing Spider-Man series was a little bit mediocre at best I approached this fresh entry with optimism that rookie director John Watt could integrate everyone’s favourite wall crawler into the MCU successfully.

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So the gist this time is that Peter Parker is still just a kid, fifteen to be exact, and this is more a coming of age high school comedy than a straight superhero film. Tom Holland makes a wonderful Parker/Spider-Man carrying on the great work from his debut in Civil War. His energy and enthusiasm as the eager to prove himself teenager is an endearing portrayal, and Holland is adept for both the dramatic and comedic requirements of the part. Speaking of comedic, this is the most joke heavy entry of any Spider-Man movie, with lots of great one-liners, physical humour and an ensemble who seem to revel in the films funnier scenes. Newcomer Jacob Batalan is the scene stealer as Ned Leeds (Peter’s best friend), the self-described “Man in the Chair”, who assists Peter in both fighting criminals and building Death Stars out of Lego. When the movie balances it’s John Hughes-esque high school drama with Peter’s struggle to maintain his dual identity it excels, his desperation to prove himself to Tony Stark impacting his judgement severely. Robert Downey Jnr is used sparingly in his role as Peter’s mentor and their developing father/son bond is a highlight of the feature. Peter’s foil in this film is the Vulture, a low-level thug underneath the Avengers radar, who wants to provide for his family. Casting Michael Keaton is rarely a bad idea, and he takes a rather run of the mill part and imbues it with a ruthlessness and callous menace the makes him far more interesting than the script alone would suggest. Whilst the character work of the film is superb (I didn’t have time to gush about the fine work of actors Zendaya, Marisa Tomei, Donald Glover and Tony Revelori) and the films comedy is pretty damn exceptional it’s the action scenes that are the let-down. Spider-Man has a larger variety of firepower thanks to a Stark designed Spider-suit but the clashes between Spider-Man and Vulture lack intensity and inventiveness, especially at the movies climax. This could possibly owe to director John Watt’s inexperience, this being his first big budget film. Homecoming is also a bit too long (For some reason Marvel like the majority of their movies to come in at the 2hr 20min mark regardless of content) and could do with shaving off fifteen minutes.

Spider-Man: Homecoming ranks around the same as Wonder Woman, a solid if unspectacular entry that nevertheless leaves the franchise in a promising position for the future. Holland is certainly right for the part, and the so-called world building means that in a sequel we can leap straight into Peter’s world without introductions. Not quite up to the standard set by the best films of the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy but it’s certainly an upgrade on The Amazing Spider-Man series.



“I can save Today. You can save the World” – Wonder Woman (Film Review)

After a few divisive releases the DCEU has finally produced a film that has met the widespread acclaim that had previously alluded them. With audiences and critics both heaping praise upon the movie and Justice League just months away has the DCEU found its mojo?

Diana Prince AKA Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) is a demigoddess from the isle of Themyscira, a mythical land populated entirely by women. When US air service Captain Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes off the shoreline Diana learns of the massive conflict encompassing the globe and chooses to leave the isle believing she can bring the war to an end by finding Ares, the God of War, and defeating him.

Off the bat, Wonder Woman is my favourite of the DCEU movies. I liked parts of Man of Steel and Batman Vs Superman, but felt both were weighed down by disappointing third acts. While it would be fair to say Suicide Squad was about as engrossing as a slice of wholemeal bread. Wonder Woman doesn’t have the structural issues that have dogged the other DCEU films, some editing issues aside. Gadot is a convincing action lead, showing a range of ability in both conversational and physical sequences though the screenplay she is reading from doesn’t always equip her with the dialogue to match the expression of her performance. The supporting cast do solid work, with Chris Pine now an experienced performer who has developed into a formidable screen presence in the last couple of years (Into the Woods, Star Trek, Hell or High Water) managing to imbue Trevor with a hopeful optimism underneath his jaded exterior. There is plenty of experience in the rest of the cast with Robin Wright, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Connie Nielson and numerous other recognisable faces filling out the ensemble. Despite being an improvement Wonder Woman is not a great film and falls into the same trap in its third act with a twist that you can see coming a mile away preceding an uninspired CG filled fight sequence reminiscent of the Doomsday battle from BvS. It’s very much a functional film, a couple of good action sequences (Specifically the one with Wonder Woman “going over the top” in the trenches), some decent jokes scattered throughout and, at its core, a strong relationship between its two leads that is emotionally sincere with a fitting resolution. What it does do is lay a solid foundation for the future. I’m still not sure Justice League will be able balance all the different features of the DCEU, but with Affleck’s Batman and Gadot’s Wonder Woman they have a core that is beginning to develop into something of promise.

This isn’t the amazing blockbuster that some of the reviews have made it out to be but it is in its own way revolutionary. To see a superhero blockbuster with a female protagonist shouldn’t be something newsworthy, but it is. If we want to live in a world where a big budget film about a female superhero, directed by a woman, isn’t a rarity then go to your local cinema and check it out.


“Nature made me a Freak. Man made me a Weapon. And God made it last too long” – Logan (Film Review)

Nine. That’s how old I was when Hugh Jackman first portrayed Wolverine on screen in X-Men, alongside Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier. X-Men was a gamechanger, proving that comic book adaptations could be successful at the box office. We now live in the Golden age of the Superhero movie, where roles can often be recast without a second glance. Spiderman had not yet been adapted for the big screen when X-Men first came out. Now, upon Logan’s release, we have seen three different actors take that role. As well as two actors playing Batman and Superman since the turn of the millennia. But there is only one Wolverine.

The year is 2029. Mutants have vanished from the world and only a few remain hiding in secluded areas. Logan, no longer going by the moniker of Wolverine, works as a driver for hire. His healing ability is failing and he self-medicates with drugs and alcohol to make it through the day. Charles Xavier is succumbing to mental degeneration and has spasms and seizures causing tremors and paralysis to those nearby. Logan hopes to save enough money to get himself and Charles a boat, so they can live on the ocean and escape their bleak existence. One day a woman, Gabriella, approaches Logan begging for him to help her and her daughter, Laura. They are being chased and wish to reach the Canadian border. Logan wants no part in helping them but is forced into assisting. However, is there anything of the old Wolverine left?

Wolverine has been somewhat domesticated by the X-Men series. Sure, he’s always been the most morally conflicted of the group, being the quickest to violence and dropping the occasional F bomb, but his darker morality had never been explored until now. In Logan we get to see the true repercussions of his violent acts. In the opening scene we watch Logan tear a group of would be thieves to shreds in a fit of rage. Limbs are separated from bodies and blood spurts without restraint from wounds. Logan himself is badly injured, his signature claws causing him agony. In the past Wolverines claws slashed without real consequence. He’d wave his arm and his opponents would fall but there would be no weight to the action. In Logan not only is the violence unabashedly graphic, but it feels gritty and dirty. Mortality plays a major theme throughout, from the main character himself and into that of Patrick Stewart’s Xavier. A man of immense power, grace and intellect reduced to a shell of his former self. Broken down by illness he is a more bitter and confused man than we once remembered. Perhaps the most galling change of all is the utter lack of sentimentality within Logan. It’s one thing to aim for a more realistic tone but the movie feels almost devoid of hope and optimism. Disappointment, regret and destitution haunt the landscape throughout. We are a far cry away from the time travelling exploits of Days of Future Past. Logan sometimes teases us with the concepts of absolution and hope only to pull the rug from under us. Jackman delivers entirely in a role that he will forever be linked with, for better or worse. His physicality completely manifest of the old animal teetering on the brink. More fragile than before, but perhaps deadlier than ever for it. Stewart is revelatory as Xavier, a man grappling with the weight of almost infinite power beginning to lose control of his gifts. Tied to Logan as both burden and mentor, the two men’s bickering disguising a peculiar familiar bond. The ensemble as a whole is remarkably solid. Stephen Merchant as the troubled Caliban, Boyd Holdbrook as southern mercenary Donald Pierce and Dafne Keen as Laura, a very talented young performer who delivers an admirably astute performance.

The curtain has now fallen on Jackman’s time as Wolverine and frankly Logan is a jarring experience. Logan is unrecognisable from the earlier X-Men films, a different animal entirely, but is all the better for it. There is no Stan Lee cameo, no post credits sequence and no scenes setting up future movies for a franchise. Just a story about family, death and pain. One well worthy to go out on for the Wolverine.


Dir: James Mangold

Scr: James Mangold, Scott Frank, Michael Green

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook, Richard E. Grant, Stephen Merchant, Eriq La Salle, Elise Neal

Prd: Hutch Parker, Simon Kinberg, Lauren Shuler Donner

DOP: John Mathieson

Music: Marco Beltrami

Country: USA

Year: 2017

Runtime: 137 Minutes

Logan is out now in UK cinemas.

“I have aged Phenomenally” – The LEGO Batman Movie (Film Review)

In 2014 The Lego Movie came along and delivered an unexpectedly hilarious, charming and entertaining film catching a lot of people off guard. Originally expected to be little more than a marketing ploy the film was a huge success and there was outrage when the film wasn’t nominated for Best animated feature at the 2015 Oscars. This success has led to the creation of a Lego Movie franchise with a sequel greenlit and a Lego Ninjago movie due out later this year. First though we are treated to a spin-off focusing on the Lego Batman character, voiced by Will Arnett.

The movie begins with Gotham City under siege from the Joker whose plans are once again thwarted by Batman. During the confrontation Batman crushes the Joker’s feelings by claiming they have no relationship and the Joker means nothing to him. This sets off a series of events that lead to the joker voluntarily surrendering so Batman can experience life without him. Meanwhile Commissioner Gordon retires and his daughter Barbara takes his place. She wants Batman to abandon his vigilante ways and team up with the police to take down criminals together, something the caped crusader wants no part of.

From it’s opening shot to its closing Lego Batman is a never-ending cavalcade of jokes, gags and witticisms. One liners, visual gags, slapstick humour and easter eggs are abound and the pace never lets up. Arnett continues his fine work from The Lego Movie, capturing the ultra-serious tone of the character which he juxtaposes with the ridiculousness of his actions. Michael Cera makes a terrifically naïve Robin and Ralph Fiennes is amusing as the ever put upon Alfred. Galifianakis makes a surprisingly charming Joker, giving this popular character a new spin as a partner in an abusive relationship with Batman. He breathes fresh life into the highly popular role and is a highlight in this buoyantly entertaining film. Chris McKay was an animation co-director on the Lego Movie and he steps up to the role of director with aplomb. The miniature Gotham is wonderfully designed and lit with the teale and orange style reminiscent of other popular blockbusters, including last year’s Batman vs Superman.

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The Lego Batman Movie is a meta-cinematic treat satirising and celebrating the history of one of the most popular fictional characters of the modern era. Batman has gone from the pages of early comic books, to a goofy Adam West TV show, appeared in some of the most violent and thoughtful graphic novels of our time and featured in one of the most successful and self-serious movie trilogies of the 21st Century. With a vast and expansive back catalogue to lampoon The Lego Batman Movie is yet another strike for the Caped crusader and it is unlikely Arnett will be hanging up his Lego cowl anytime soon.


Dir: Chris McKay
Scr: Seth Grahame-Smith, Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Jared Stern, John Whittington
Cast: Will Arnett, Ralph Fiennes, Rosario Dawson, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Mariah Carey, Jenny Slate
Prd: Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Music: Lorne Balfe
Country: USA, Denmark, Australia
Year: 2017
Run time: 104 minutes

The LEGO Batman Movie is out now in UK cinemas.

“You know what they say about the crazy ones…” – Suicide Squad (Film Review)

After a highly mixed response to BvS: Dawn of Justice the DCEU has gotten off to a rather stuttering start which has placed Suicide Squad in the unenviable position of being a flagship release rather than an offbeat niche cinematic offering. Therefore we’ve heard rumours of reshoots being administered to the project in an attempt to add more humour to the film and the marketing departments changed the tone from the original trailers dark and grungy take to a more pop based style adding more fun and colour.

Following the death of Superman from the end of BvS government operative Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) assembles a team of incarcerated criminals in an attempt to form an expendable tactical squad who could contend with a possible meta-human threat. She recruits the hit-man Deadshot (Will Smith), mentally unstable Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), possessed Witch June Moore/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne), pyrokinetic gangster (Jay Hernandez), Aussie bank-robber Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtenay), deformed man-beast Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and really good climber (There’s little else to say) Slipknot (Adam Beach). Waller puts the squad under the guidance of Col. Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), a by the book military officer, and his bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara). Following a suspected supernatural attack in Midway City the squad are sent out to retrieve a secret package all whilst Harley Quinn’s psychotic lover, the Joker (Jared Leto), attempts to rescue her.

Suicide Squad opens with a promising, energetic opening introducing the large array of characters with a high volume of pop song based montages. However following a relatively strong first act Suicide Squad sadly dissolves into a myriad of bland, uninteresting, action sequences occasionally highlighted by an interesting sequence or two all culminating in an anticlimactic third act finale. Needless to say I was monumentally disappointed by what was one of the most highly anticipated films of the year that despite a promising start stuttered to a halt forty minutes in and promptly self-destructed into a convoluted mess of poorly edited action, horrifically written dialogue and Cara Delevingne performing some sort of gyrating hula dance that opens portals to the sky.

Despite those shortcomings the cast, for the most part, do a good job. Will Smith delivers his most charismatic performance in years as Deadshot and Margot Robbie has an impressive screen presence though her performance is undercut by some poor writing in a lot of her scenes. As amusing as Robbie manages to be at times her dialogue is unfunny and conflictingly designed. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Robbie’s scenes with Jared Leto. Much has been made of Leto’s meticulous preparation in taking over the role of the Joker and he’s featured heavily in the promotional material for the film despite his role being minimal at most. With little more than five minutes of screen time Leto does manage to make a significant impact, a highly disappointing one at that. Leto’s Joker is a gangster, a career criminal, and it would have been interesting to see the character return to his golden age comic book routes with a modern twist. However this Joker is an impotent, posturing, flaccid man-child impossible to find interesting. Despite Leto’s silly voice affectation, his “quirky” mannerisms and David Ayer’s attempts to photograph him with faux artistic intent you never find him intimidating, amusing or anything at all beyond irritating. Perhaps the most ridiculous thing about suicide squad is watching a film in which Jai Courtenay playing a boomerang throwing bank robber is far more watchable than Jared Leto as a green haired gangster wannabe. The most impressive actor in Suicide squad, unsurprisingly, is Viola Davis as the terrifyingly fierce Amanda Waller who displays an air of vile disrepute none of the so called Suicide Squad can match. She’s an intimidating presence and owns every scene she’s in. Though they get little screen time Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Karen Fukuhara leave positive impressions while Joel Kinnaman and Cara Delevingne are somewhat lethargic in their roles lacking any real energy or charisma. There’s also a very funny brief appearance from Ike Barinholtz as a security guard and hopefully we will see more of him in a future film.


Suicide Squad is a mixed bag and despite my admiration for the past work of David Ayer and his grungy style seeming a good fit for this project if there is a sequel (which after a massive box office opening there will be) I hope a different director comes on board with a more coherent vision than what he has managed to capture, or at the very least a different screenwriter. At times DOP Roman Vasyanov manages to capture a large variety of interesting plateaus however these too seem to vanish once act two kicks into gear. Despite my disappointment I have hopes for the future of the Suicide Squad, Jared Leto aside, and hopefully the DCEU can find its stride following the huge financial success of the film.


Dir: David Ayer

Scr: David Ayer

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Jared Leto, Viola Davis, Jai Courtenay, Jay Hernandez, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joel Kinnaman, Karen Fukuhara, Cara Delevingne, Adam Beach, Ben Affleck, Ike Barinholtz, Scott Eastwood

Prd: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle

DOP: Roman Vasyanov

Music: Steven Price

Country: USA

Runtime: 123 minutes

Suicide Squad is out now in UK cinemas.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

The sequel to 2014’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reunites our favourite renaissance painter named reptiles in their fight to protect New York City from an assortment of colourfully weird bad guys.

A year on from the events of the last movie the turtles, Leonardo (Pete Ploszek), Rafael (Alan Ritchson), Donatello (Jeremy Howard) and Michelangelo (Noel Fisher) are struggling to maintain their need to “live in the shadows” and as such are beginning to fracture as a team. Meanwhile Baxter Stockman (Tyler Perry) organises a jailbreak to free the Shredder (Brian Tee) who is then sent through a portal and meets the alien warlord Commander Krang (Brad Garrett) who makes an alliance with Shredder to help him conquer the world. He gives the Shredder purple ooze which he uses to transform the criminals Bebop (Gary Anthony Williams) and Rocksteady (Sheamus) into a Warthog and Rhinoceros respectively. The turtles, with the assistance of corrections officer Casey Jones (Stephen Amell) and the returning April O’Neil (Megan Fox) and Vern Fenwick (Will Arnett) must unite to defeat these numerous threats.

A lot of fan favourite characters have been introduced in this adaptation with Krang, Rocksteady, Bebop, Baxter Stockman, Kirai and Casey Jones all appearing in this sequel with a range of success. Despite wanting to approach this feature with a positive attitude I felt like the film struggled to balance its excessive storylines into a coherent, functioning narrative. I’m not saying that I was unwilling to overlook the more absurd story aspects. 10 minutes into the film the Turtles modded out Garbage Truck turns out to have a pair of giant nun chucks weaponised onto its sides and I was happy to put my lateral mind to one side in favour of enjoying a light-minded action film. However just because you can overlook the movies unbelievable amount of tech gobbledegook explaining why you can turn two men into a Warthog and a Rhino it doesn’t mean you will enjoy the shallowly layered characters, poorly written dialogue exchanges or the exposition so mountainous you could drop it Southern France and turn it into a ski resort. Of the new characters introduced only Bebop and Rocksteady fulfil any real purpose both managing to be fleetingly entertaining at times, the same cannot be said of Stephen Amell as Casey Jones who is sadly something of a charisma vacuum in this film, whilst Tyler Perry’s bumbling scientist is supposed to be humorously irritating but only achieves the latter. I say these things not as slights against the performers, sometimes the meshing of material and actor simply doesn’t conspire to anything and this is one of those occasions. Krang is introduced as the criminal mastermind of the film but in the end he undercuts Shredder (Who had been functioning as the main villain of the movie) and is a boring final boss fight for the protagonists to overcome screaming about how much he is going to love conquering the world and enslaving the populace. I don’t desire every blockbuster villain to be as well characterised as Shylock collecting a pound of flesh but it would have been nice to have, well, anything of interest really. Megan Fox is able if not outstanding; Will Arnett is passably pleasing as a comic foil whilst the turtles manage be just about intriguing enough to stop the film from falling into true awfulness.

Basically if you liked the first film then there may be some enjoyment to be had but with what else is currently on offer at the cinema it might be wise to skip this venture. On the surface there is plenty of loud boisterous SFX and performances but it’s lacking in any real depth. Like a puddle on a rainy day it might be fun to have a quick jump in but if you tried leaping off a 10M diving board into it you might find yourself regretting the experience.


Review by Alexander Halsall

X-Men: Apocalypse

When X -Men first came out in the year 2000 comic book movies were still finding their feet as we didn’t yet have the MCU, The Dark Knight trilogy or even Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy. Now 16 years later the X-Men Universe has been joined by Marvel and DC in the superhero movie universe brigade/thing. Having helmed three of the previous X-Men films, including Days of Future Past, Bryan Singer has again been trusted in bringing the mutants to the big screen.

It’s now the 1980’s and the first mutant Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac) has awoken and displeased by the culture he has awoken within (perhaps if he had awoken in the 60’s he would have been more chill) decides to eliminate humans from the planet so that mutants can truly rule supreme. He recruits the orphan girl Storm (Alexandra Shripp), Psylocke (Olivia Munn), cage fighter Angel (Ben Hardy) and everyone’s favourite metal detector Magneto (Michael Fassbender). Elsewhere Professor X (James McAvoy) is running his institute for the gifted with Hank (Nicholas Hoult) and new student Scott/Cyclops (Tye Sheridan) arrives alongside current student Jean Grey (Sophie Turner). Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) also stops by with Nightcrawler (Kodi-Smit Mcphee) as she is worried about Magneto’s wellbeing following a traumatic event. Quicksilver (Evan Peters) is also alerted to this as he feels he needs to bond with Magneto who is his father. Whilst Professor X looks into Magneto’s disappearance he comes across Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) again, as there were not enough sub-plots apparently.

Basically there’s a lot going on, and it’s mostly entertaining but doesn’t really feel weighted in anything because there isn’t enough time for the film to fit everything in. Apocalypse was one of my favourite villians from the old cartoon series and I didn’t feel his more ‘subtle’ design was effective. Oscar Isaac is a terrific actor but his performance felt very repetitive and stifling, not because of his lack of ability, but there wasn’t enough time or nuance devoted in the film’s runtime to keep him interesting. All of the returning players perform ably; Fassbender delivers a fine mix of gaunt expressions and passionate vengeance of a man going over the edge. Whilst the newcomers all perform promisingly in their roles they don’t get enough material to truly flourish and end up simply being promising additions. Whereas in Captain America: Civil War Tom Holland was a great Peter Parker/Spiderman in Apocalypse Sophie Turner seems that she could be a good Jean Grey, and Tye Sheridan could be a good Cyclops etc. but they hover on the periphery battling for screen time with all the other characters. Having stolen the show in Days of Future of Past with a breath-taking slow motion (or fast motion I suppose?) sequence Quicksilver returns with a similar scene here. It isn’t as good, going for a bigger is better approach, it is funny in parts but lacks the surprise and intricate detail it had in Days of Future Past. Then we get lots of worldwide destruction that makes Man of Steel look conservative by comparison, say what you will about DC’s attitude to city wide destruction at least in Batman vs Superman they showed the destruction from a personal perspective to add dramatic weight. In Apocalypse we watch as cities are sucked into the sky and feel simply that the animators did a stylish job with it, but no empathy whatsoever.

Despite my hang ups X-Men: Apocalypse has enough impressive action beats to be entertaining without being immersive. There are some funny gags, and impressive special effects but very little dramatic stakes. It’s definitely the weakest film of the “New class” trilogy (First Class and Days of Future Past being superior) but with an impressive cast to sell it does the job.

Film Rating 3/5

Review by Alexander Halsall