03/05/2015

GOTHAMIZED: DAREDEVILIZED - PODCAST


Gothamized is a completely unofficial guide to new series Gotham and a debate arena for all things Batman.



In this 20th episode, we discuss the 19th episode of Gotham, Daredevil, Jared Leto, the Batman V Superman trailer, Bad Lieutenant and apples.

(for my written review of the Gotham Pilot, click here!)

Hope you enjoy it!

You can also find us on podcast The Big Rewind (available on iTunes, Stitcher and Player FM) and send us emails with your Bat-questions, Six Degrees challenges and riddles here: gothamized@gmail.com

(for the pilot episode CLICK HERE)

28/04/2015

AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON - REVIEW


The Avengers are back in a sequel that promises to be even bigger and more epic somehow.

Joss Whedon once again directs and, though you'd expect juggling that many main characters (plus about a dozen new recruits) would make for a complete cinematic mess, the man somehow pulls it off once again and delivers a blockbuster every bit as ambitious and entertaining as it suggests.

Well, apart for that weird half hour where Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) takes us for a particularly dull ride back to his "safe house".

Urgh...

Other than that, this sequel fixes a lot of what made the first movie a little too uneven. While the first Avengers suffered from a ropey opening sequence and an altogether sluggish first half hour, this movie throws us directly into the action and doesn't let go for a good while which is instantly refreshing. Again, everyone gets their chance to shine but also screw up. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), whom, I assume, has amnesia and therefore can't recall anything that happened in Iron Man 3 (lucky bastard), misguidedly gets his faulty Ultron project underway, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) goes full-Hulk at one point and starts destroying the city all over again, a bunch of them get hypnotised... Basically the heroes have more challenges to face and they're not doing that great of a job at handling any of it. The film then becomes about them dealing with their individual demons (Star Trek V-style) and working as a team to move forward and defeat a new powerful enemy.

Speaking of which, the villain is also far better in this movie: the James Spader-voiced robot baddie Ultron turns out to be a really enjoyable nemesis. To be honest, it's just a treat to see a Marvel film in which Loki is NOT shoehorned in as the villain somehow. Ultron is a tough megalomaniac with big plans so he's a genuine threat but he's also kinda camp and has a Saturday morning cartoon villain quality which lighten things up a bit. Believe it or not, this sequel is darker with some casualties and more at stake. Plus there's more than one macguffin to worry about so it's not quite as predictable as its predecessor. It's also pretty cool to see The Avengers' universe grow even more with the likes of The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), War Machine (Don Cheadle), Agent Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Heimdall (Idris Elba) among others all getting extended or fleeting cameos.

This reviewer can't wait for Spidey and Rocket Raccoon to fight side by side.

Some new faces include Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and the Vision (Paul Bettany) and even though the twins feel tacked-on for no real reason, the latter is a cool addition with loads of potential not to mention a clever bridge into Infinity Wars. The film, like its predecessor, is rather long and you do feel like some stuff could have easily been cut out entirely. This includes the infamous Hawkeye sidestep, the twins' loose connection to Tony Stark and Ultron and the whole Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) romance subplot with Hulk, all of which drag the pace of the film down radically whenever they occur. Quite a few corny jokes should have also been left hanging back in the editing suite, Whedon once again having a little too much fun with the script and the characters.

Some of the more stand-out moments include a destructive Hulk vs Iron Man fight, a thrilling early mission to recover Loki's pointy stick (it's not what you think) and an action-packed final half-hour in which an entire city is literally reduced to ashes. All in all, this is still a somewhat flawed Avengers movie but it's one that's far more palatable than the first instalment in that all the characters are given much more to do and its pace is far more balanced. Plus you don't need to wait for all the characters to meet and have long exposition-filled conversations before the action kicks in this time. One minus is watching the film in 3D which feels nearly absent here and only really serves to make everything look slightly darker. Nothing really leaps out at you and most of the action sequences either take place in smokey, dark or snowy locations so you kind of need to see what's going on as clearly as possible.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron aims to be a fun geeky romp and it achieves just that: iconic characters played by a reliably terrific cast, loads of action, loads of plot-holes, a cool new moustache-twirlingly evil villain, the Hulk piloting a plane looking sad, what more could you ask for?

A thoroughly entertaining, at times cartoonish or ever-so-slightly dopey, blockbuster.

Assemble and go watch it, I say.

TOP 30 SUPERHERO THEMES


To celebrate the release of The Avengers: Age Of Ultron, I count down my Top 30 Superhero Themes over at Feedback Theatre and, shockingly, they're not all from Danny Elfman.

Composers assemble!

26/04/2015

JOHN WICK - REVIEW


Keanu Reeves is back with John Wick, a new thriller in which the titular badass comes back for one last revenge mission against the mob after the puppy his late wife gave him posthumously is brutally killed.

Yes, I said puppy.

Not his daughter, not his wife: a puppy.

It's almost like the movie itself isn't taking its own genre seriously. And that's what's so refreshing about John Wick: it wants to have its cake and eat it too and... it kinda does just that. Effortlessly, no less! While the puppy thing and the fact that Wick is such a myth that everyone is terrified at the very mention of his name are obviously tongue-in-cheek pokes at the revenge thriller clichés, the film never flat out makes fun of its main character or turns into a spoof. In fact, you do get attached to that darn puppy and its relationship with Wick so when it does check out early, you do feel for the guy. It helps that Reeves gives a genuine performance and nails the more emotional moments.

The film is action-packed with John Wick "gun-fuing" his way through torrents of baddies with a mix of judo, jiu-jitsu and those gun-katas we saw (and sniggered at) in Equilibrium. Wick gets to shoot and beat people up in bath houses, in fancy hotel rooms, in neon-lit night clubs, in his own house, and all because he was not allowed to grieve for his wife's death in the way that he wanted. It's all pretty over-the-top and ridiculous but self-aware enough that John Wick skilfully avoids being too dumb to take. Instead, by embracing the predictable nature of that type of thriller and having fun with it, we too have fun with it. Willem Dafoe co-stars as Wick's old sniper pal and the likes of John Leguizamo and Ian McShane also pop up, albeit briefly, along with a handful of recognisable TV faces who all feel well cast.

John Wick is the kind of throwback homage we wanted The Expendables to be, the kind of old-fashioned, silly yet kickass action flick Taken brought back to the A list somehow. It's a very worthy comeback for its lead and a really entertaining, well put together flick with loads of laughs, cool, gunshots and even some heart.

Also: a puppy.

More please!

22/04/2015

THE BIG REWIND: EPISODE 54 - PODCAST


In this 54th episode, Adam (aka The RetroCritic) and fellow film buff Jamie discuss movie news, review Furious 7 and talk retro stuff.


Email us here if you have any questions, requests or contributions: bigrewindpodcast@gmail.com

Or simply comment below :)

Oh and you can also find us on iTunesStitcher and Player FM where you can subscribe to the podcast and download every episode thusfar!

@TheRetroCritic
#TheBigRewind
retrocriticblog.blogspot.com

13/04/2015

FURIOUS 7 - REVIEW


The Fast & Furious gang are back once again in this 7th (yes, 7th) outing which promises to be bigger and even more ridiculous than the one before.

You know, the one with the tank?

Well, taking a page out of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise, Furious 7 sees your tank and raises you parachuting cars. New villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Staham) prepares his revenge against Dom (Vin Diesel) and co while his brother rests in hospital after failing to bring down our heroes in the last movie. Although that's soon reduced to more of a subplot when Kurt Russell shows up to steer the film into a macguffin-filled direction as Dom and the rest are hired to find a kidnapped hacker, then a hard-to-reach sports car and finally a super-powerful computer chip with some clichéd face-recognition technology on it. It's the same old magic tech-heavy plot we've seen a million times and it is just as tedious as it sounds. Then again, it does lead us to some truly wonderfully absurd action sequences and dips the franchise's toe into sci-fi so I can't complain about that too much, even if it bulks up Furious 7's already titanic running time even more for no good reason.

The first half-hour of the film is dedicated predominantly to melodramatic conversations between the main characters for purely expositional purposes or in order to remind us what happened prior had we, god forbid, missed one key instalment of the franchise. The only useful things we do learn is that Dominic Toretto carries a big hammer around in his car and Dwayne Johnson sweats a lot. The Johnson vs Statham fight we finally get is the film's first great moment though the pace is once again slowed down by endless "now, it's personal" moments meant to remind us over and over that Vin Diesel is no Jason Statham fan. Following some stinker dialog and another attempt from Tyrese Gibson at humour, everyone is finally strapped into their cars at the back of a plane, ready to reverse back into the sky and we are delivered the preposterous spectacle we were waiting for. Luckily, this sequence doesn't disappoint and shows that director James Wan knows exactly how to switch to top gear without screwing it up.

It's a scene so baffling in terms of logic that even few James Bond films have managed to match it and yet it works completely. Driving a car off a cliff is seen as a good move in this movie, to give you an idea of the philosophy at work here. The gang travels to Dubai and suddenly Furious 7 becomes a heist movie where stealing a car located at the top of a really tall building is the focus. What follows is another big silly moment when Vin Diesel and Paul Walker decide to crash the car into not one but three buildings because, as we all know by this point, cars CAN fly. We also get to see Diesel lift a car with his bare hands, something I'm still applauding in my mind. And as if the film couldn't be any longer, it builds up to an Avengers-style third act which is basically one big action sequence complete with drones shooting down buildings, Dwayne Johnson pulverising bad guys with a gun bigger than one of his cast-breaking arms, Vin Diesel fighting Jason Statham using mechanic tools as swords... it's pretty amazing.

The film ends on an emotional note as Paul Walker's character is given a fitting send-off in a final scene which, in any other movie would have come off as cheesy, but here feels appropriately heartfelt. After all the poorly acted, badly written melodramatic moments this movie provides, who would have thought that they'd actually get one right? Walker's role in the film is bulked-up through CGI, his brothers stepping in as stand-ins and certain scenes being shot around him. This is a little awkward at times but the fact his character is given some really cool action moments, fighting with Tony Jaa, running on top of a bus that's falling off a cliff, crashing cars through buildings, makes it work nonetheless.

Furious 7 may not be as focused as Fast 5 or as straight-forward as Furious 6, it may be overlong, clumsy, messy, corny, needlessly convoluted and very, very dumb but whenever it's throwing everything but the kitchen sink at you, it's tons of fun. A genuinely moving Paul Walker homage and some gloriously mindless action make this one worth it.

This time, it wasn't just about being fast.

It was also about parachutes.

09/04/2015

GET HARD - REVIEW


Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart team up in Get Hard, a movie which sounds silly and is, indeed, just as silly as it sounds.

The film sees Ferrell play a clueless rich dude who is one day accused of financial foul play and is promptly sentenced to 10 years in prison. In the days leading up to him being sent there, he hires the help of a car wash owner (Hart), under the incorrect assumption that he once went to prison, to help him "get hard" (as in get tough) so he can somehow survive his time behind bars. One long training montage later, the film rushes to a predictable third act and the title's double-entendre is hammered into our heads one last time just in case you forget Get Hard as soon as you leave the cinema. Which is not impossible, by the way. That's pretty much it, really, but luckily both Ferrell and Hart are charismatic and funny enough to keep you entertained throughout.

The film does have some really good ideas and, at its best, it's like watching an updated Trading Places-style comedy. At its worst, unfortunately, it's borderline homophobic crass. An entire sequence is dedicated to Kevin Hart telling Will Ferrell to go find a gay man, any gay man and give him a blow-job as practice for what's waiting for him in prison. There's a joke in there somewhere but that whole scene just comes off as embarrassing for all involved and overall misguided. Hart's increasingly absurd attempts at training Ferrell and the latter's mindless interpretations of said attempts, however, do provide some fun moments. Even then, you get the feeling that both actors would have been better served in a smarter flick with a sharper script.

While Get Hard does have its moments, it is still little more than a weak effort which just happens to have two strong comedic performances at its heart.

Ironically limp.

04/04/2015

GOTHAMIZED: THE IRON MAN 3-WAY - PODCAST


Gothamized is a completely unofficial guide to new series Gotham and a debate arena for all things Batman.



In this 19th episode, we discuss the 18th episode of Gotham, Tyrese Gibson, Deadpool and red pandas.

(for my written review of the Gotham Pilot, click here!)

Hope you enjoy it!

You can also find us on podcast The Big Rewind (available on iTunes, Stitcher and Player FM) and send us emails with your Bat-questions, Six Degrees challenges and riddles here: gothamized@gmail.com

(for the pilot episode CLICK HERE)

02/04/2015

SUPER TROOPERS - REVIEW


These past couple of weeks, which saw the Broken Lizard gang start a campaign on Indiegogo.com to produce a sequel to their 2001 cult comedy Super Troopers, certainly showed that the film definitely did have an audience as the comedy team reached their £2M goal within only a day.

So, before Super Troopers 2 gets truly underway, I thought I'd look back at the first film to check that it does still hold up.

Alright meow, first things first, while the film could most definitely be described as a stoner cop comedy, its writing is sharp and funny enough to work as just an all around great comedy so if drug humour and/or you're not a Police Academy superfan, fear not: you're in safe hands. The plot sees a group of goofy, juvenile state troopers face off against the local police department (led by the late, great Daniel Von Bargen) when a potential weed-trafficking ring is discovered in Vermont. The state troopers' Captain (a perfect Brian Cox) informs them that any screw-up in this case could cost them their jobs but the gang find themselves conflicted between securing said jobs and messing around, setting up all sorts of pranks or flying off the handle as officer Farva (Kevin Heffernan), the gang's black sheep, does when ordering a "litre o' Cola" in a fast-food restaurant.

The film works as well as it does thanks to its instantly likeable characters (even the side-characters are gold) but mostly thanks to a tight, hilarious script penned by the film's director and co-star Jay Chandrasekhar. Much like in Dumb & Dumber, where basically every joke is memorable and hits the mark, Super Troopers is constantly very funny and surprisingly clever when tackling some very silly and ridiculous scenarios. You wouldn't expect a movie in which someone is shaving-creamed from head to toe in a locker and a blow-up sex doll pretty much (spoilers?) saves the day to really try anything too special but Chandrasekhar and his team of loveable goofballs somehow managed to put together a pretty perfect comedy and have a clearly awesome time doing so.

Super Troopers, years after its release, was branded as something of a cult gem and it's easy to see why: from start to finish it is one stupidly fun roller-coaster ride packed with endlessly quotable lines and classic random moments including the best use of the word "shenanigans" in years, the only known use of the word "Afghanistanimation", a tense maple syrup-drinking contest and a bear-f***ing scene.

I, for one, highly recommend you check out Broken Lizard's opus, which still holds up, and support their upcoming sequel.

This is, indeed, a moustache ride worth taking.

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